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Despite Economic Hardship, FG Spends N14.77bn On Presidential Jets In 11 Months

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The Federal Government of Nigeria spent N14.77 billion on the repair and maintenance of the presidential air fleet in 11 months, according to a State House report.

BIGPEN NIGERIA (https://bigpenngr.com) understands the development comes amidst plans to approve the purchase of two new aircraft for the presidential fleet, which has been criticized by opposition parties.

According to report in Sunday Punch, the federal government has defended the spending, citing the need for the president’s safety and comfort.

The report, however stated that Aviation experts have also weighed in on the issue, with some calling for moderation in the financial budget for the presidential fleet.

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Punch investigation revealed that, “between May 2015 and August 2016, the Nigerian government spent an estimated $65.13m (N19.9bn) to maintain the 10-aircraft presidential fleet.

“The Nigerian Presidential Air Fleet is the second-largest airline in the country, with a combined estimated value of $347.4m (N106.13bn).

“The Federal Government has earmarked N12.7 billion for the presidential air fleet in the 2023 supplementary budget.
– The Nigerian government also plans to spend N5 billion for the purchase of a presidential yacht.

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“There are fresh concerns about the health status of the presidential fleet, despite the cost of $8 million spent on repairs in the last two years.

“The Presidential fleet has been depleted by routine maintenance and snags, with President Bola Tinubu and officials forced to travel on a leased private jet.

“The Boeing 737 Business Jet (BBJ) bought during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo at the cost of $43 million, has gulped about $8 million between 2022 and 2024 for repairs and maintenance”.

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The report says,”the House of Representatives Committee on National Security and Intelligence listed the purchase in its technical subcommittee report, which may cost over $623.4m or N918.7bn, according to experts’ estimates.

“The committee is of the strong and informed opinion that considering the fragile structure of the Nigerian federation and recognising the dire consequences of any foreseen or unforeseen mishap that may arise as a result of technical/operational inadequacy of the Presidential Air Fleet, it is in the best interest of the country to procure two additional aircraft as recommended. This will also prove to be most cost-efficient in the long run, aside from the added advantage of providing a suitable, comfortable and safe carrier befitting of the status and responsibilities of the offices of the President and Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” the report read in part.

Bayo Onanuga,Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, was quoted to said in an interview with The PUNCH, that the purchase of another aircraft was a necessity. He added that the proposal was a “basic thing any sane government will do”, because it cannot toy with the President’s welfare.

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“Does Peter Obi want the President dead? Is that his wish? Does he want him to continue moving around in a rickety plane and die like the Vice-President of Malawi, and President of Iran? Let him tell us. This is a basic thing any sane government will do. You can’t toy with the President’s welfare,” he said.

Onanugu’s defence followed Labour Party’s Presidential candidate, Mr Peter Obi’s stance on the development which he had described as unfortunate, saying it was coming at a time when Nigerians were grappling with economic hardship caused by the Federal Government’s policies

The report says, the National Publicity Secretary of LP, Obiora Ifoh, also maintained that Nigeria could not afford to be seen lavishing scarce resources on ‘luxury’ at a time when the masses were experiencing untold hardship.

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He said, “I think that the office of the President needs a ‘functional’ aircraft. But, as of the last count, we are aware that there are more than 10 aircraft in the presidential fleet.

“What any responsible government should do is refurbish them. One or two manufacturers, such as Boeing or whoever built the aircraft, could service them and return them to Nigeria.

“Is this not the same presidential fleet that is used to carry the children of the president, vice president, their wives and their cronies around? We see them everywhere.

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“It is a misplaced priority for this government to think of taking loans again, despite the billions of dollars in debt that we have found ourselves in. A new presidential jet is a luxury.”

Also reacting, the New Nigeria People’s Party did not share the sentiment of the APC government, which it claimed has been toying with the emotions of Nigerians.

The newspaper quoted the spokesman for the NNPP, Ladipo Johnson, as saying that the timing for buying new aircraft was wrong.

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“Whatever it is, the timing is not good. This is coming at a time when Nigerians are facing challenges. It seems like this government has not cut its costs in any way, hence they have to tighten their belts. People are not happy over the removal of fuel subsidy, the hike in electricity tariffs, and food inflation.”

But the ruling party, APC stated that the opposition was making a noise.

While not dismissing the current hardship in the country, the National Vice-Chairman (South-East) of the party, Dr Ijeoma Arodiogbu, argued that the safety of the President was paramount.

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Among other things, Arodiogbu cited the death of the Iranian President, Ebrahim Raisi; the country’s foreign minister and other top government functionaries, who recently died in a helicopter crash as enough reason not to allow any Nigerian, let alone the president, to travel in faulty aircraft.

He said, “We appreciate the concerns of the opposition about the hardship in the country, which is also real. But, I believe the administration is doing its best to ameliorate the pains of the Nigerian people. With that said, no country will compromise the safety of its president. You can see that in recent times, there have been plane crashes that killed a couple of world leaders.

However, “In his submission, the President of the Association of Foreign Airlines and Representatives in Nigeria, Dr Kingsley Nwokeoma, said though it was expedient for the president to have functioning aircraft for his trips, there should be moderation in the financial budget to maintain the presidential fleet.

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“If you spend that kind of money, there should be value for it. Yes, the president should have aircraft that are in good condition, as he needs to travel here and there. But, we should also consider the fact that times are hard for Nigerians, as everybody is complaining now. So, whatever has to be used and whatever money has to be appropriated for such things have to be duly deployed, so that it doesn’t look like wastage. This means everybody should be accountable. We all know that the times are not good. And, this should reflect in anything we do as a country”.

However, another aviation expert, Mr John Ojikutu John, backed the Federal Government, stating that the funds to be spent were not much.

He said, “The money (for the repair) is nothing. It is about $14m when converted to dollars. At that level, they cannot spend anything less than $2m on each one if they have about five to seven aircraft.

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“I don’t know how many aircraft there are. But, I am looking at five aircraft minimum, and they will spend about $2m on each of them.”, the newspaper reported.

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