Naira Marley, Executive Jet fight dirty, Fashola denies involvement

Samson Folarin and Oluwatosin Omojuyigbe

Nigerian musical artiste, Azeez Fashola, popularly known as Naira Marley, and the Chairman of Executive Jet Services, Sam Iwuajoku, have exchanged bitter words over the sanctions imposed on the airline by the Federal Government for violating the COVID-19 guidelines.

While Iwuajoku described Naira Marley and his team as a bunch of useless people, the singer, in a series of tweets on Tuesday, vowed never to patronise the airline again.

The Federal Government had, on Monday, announced the indefinite suspension of the operations of the airline and promised to impose fines on it and the pilot for violating the flight approval it received from the Ministry of Aviation.

The airline had flown Naira Marley and his team to Abuja, where they performed at a concert in violation of the COVID-19 guidelines

Iwuajoku, in a letter dated June 15, 2020, and addressed to the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, apologised for the incident and claimed that he thought the aircraft was conveying a serving minister and his team.

He said he was shocked when he realised that it was Naira Marley and his team, who were conveyed by the aircraft.

The letter read in part, “Please, the flight was to carry (sic) a judge to Abuja on Sunday, 14th of June, 2020, as requested and the permit was granted based on the application, but unfortunately, when I called the judge on Saturday morning to inform him that we have (sic) the permit, he then said he has (sic) reached (sic) Abuja already with (sic) a different flight that someone gave him a lift (sic) to Abuja.

“So, on Saturday morning, 13th June, 2020, my staff called me that they have (sic) a charter flight to Abuja and that the passengers are (sic) already in the lounge. As a rule, passenger manifests are always sent to me before departure.

“When I went through the manifest and saw Babatunde Fashola, I thought it was the honourable Minister of Works (and Housing) going to Abuja with his men. So, we decided to do (sic) the flight since he is a serving minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I didn’t know that it was a bunch of useless people.”

Reacting to Iwuajoku’s letter, Naira Marley regretted using the airline, saying the plane almost crashed.

He tweeted, “Do you know that over 20,000 Marlians travel with executive jets a month? We won’t be using your useless airline again for calling us useless. Thank God we didn’t crash on that flight sha because we nearly did. BTW We didn’t book the flight ourselves.

“The cost of living working-class/middle-class is too high. The fact that the Almighty has blessed you, shouldn’t make you look down on anyone Mr executive jet calling us useless is not only defamation but oppressive. The statement by the CEO is arrogant and silly.”

He, however, added that his younger brother, whose name is Babatunde Fashola, was on the flight.

Meanwhile, the minister has distanced himself from the controversy, saying he has not travelled out of Abuja since March 22, 2020.

Fashola, in a statement on Tuesday by his Special Adviser, Communications, Hakeem Bello, said his attention was drawn to the mentioning of his name in the letter by Iwuajoku.

The statement said, “For purposes of clarity and in order to set the records straight, the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, has not travelled out of Abuja since March 22, 2020, when he returned there after an inspection tour of the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway’s construction work and a visit to Lagos before the lockdown.

“The decision of the minister not to travel was taken in strict compliance with the Federal Government’s ban on inter-state travels as part of efforts to control the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is, therefore, ridiculous for Dr Iwuajoku to attempt to link the minister with any non-compliant flight.”

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