There has been an increase in international flight bookings for families of many prominent Nigerians and politicians as well as expatriates, investigations have shown.
An airline source said that the increase might not be unconnected with the forthcoming elections.
It was gathered that between January and the first week in February, many prominent families had bought tickets to travel out of the country.
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A source said top destinations included Dubai ( United Arab Emirates), Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom.
“Many prominent families have been buying tickets to travel out since the beginning of the year,” one of the sources said.
A travel agent, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was normal for politicians to move their families out of the country during elections.
“Once it is election time, most politicians send their families out of the country or they just move to places where they cannot be reached easily,” the source stated.
He, however, added that the fact that they (politicians) were buying international flight tickets did not mean they would eventually travel out of the country.
According to him, such families sometimes buy the tickets but stay in secluded places within the country until elections are over.
“They can afford to buy tickets and not use them, which happens often,” the source added.
According to the Director of Research, Zenith Travels, Olumide Ohunayo, “There is a huge divide between the supporters of the two major presidential candidates, making it look more like a war situation. So, it is not surprising that some people are leaving the country.”
Ohunayo said that apart from some politicians and elite, expatriates and companies that had technical partners had also seen many of their staff members going on vacation abroad, pending the outcome of the elections.
He said, “Even some indigenous firms are waiting for the outcome of the elections. I think supporters and team members of the major political parties are the major problems.
“This has affected travel. We just hope the elections come and go so we can live normal lives and everyone can move on with their lives.”
The Chief Executive Officer, Aglow Limited, an aviation support services company, Mr Tayo Ojuri, said it had been a trend.
He said some of the movements were based on security reports from embassies and companies that evaluated and controlled risks.
He said, “So, there has been an increase in the movement of Nigerians but mostly expatriates. Many people are travelling, some expatriates’ insurance terms do not allow them to stay in a country during elections, they move and return afterwards.
“Within the aviation industry, what that does for us is it increases outbound flights and after the elections, there will be an increase in inbound flights. So, there is an increase in traffic right now because February is normally quiet in aviation but not this time.”
The President, National Association of Nigerian Travel Agents, Mr Bankole Bernard, also confirmed that there had been an increase in international travels but was cautious in linking the development to the elections.
He said, “Yes, there has been an increase but we must be careful not to tie it to the elections. Although it is expected because once it is an election, people want to play safe by travelling out. Expatriates especially don’t want to be trapped because it will cost more to evacuate them when they could fly out and return when elections are over.”
Bernard, however, stated that the percentage increase in the number of travellers was still within reasonable limits.
“It has not become worrisome because it is not a huge surge, if there is a two to five per cent increase, it is not so much. It becomes worrisome if it rises to about 30 per cent increase,” he added.
Aviation analyst and Chief Executive Officer, Belujane Konsult, Mr Chris Aligbe, said, “There is always something like that during elections, many people are doing it but I don’t think it is necessary.”