FG spend N15bn for Presidential jet maintenance in 11 months: Report

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The Federal Government has allocated a substantial ₦14.77 billion for the repair and maintenance of the presidential air fleet over the past 11 months.

According to Punch, these funds were disbursed in 11 tranches from 16th July 2023 to 25th May 2024, using the State House headquarters transit account designated for the Presidential Air Fleet Transit Funds.

This financial outlay coincides with the National Assembly’s deliberation on approving the purchase of two new aircraft for the presidential fleet. The President’s primary aircraft, a 19-year-old Boeing 737, along with several others in the fleet, have become dysfunctional due to age and wear.

The House of Representatives Committee on National Security and Intelligence has included the procurement of new aircraft in its technical subcommittee report. Experts estimate the cost for acquiring two new state-of-the-art aircraft to be over $623.4 million, or approximately ₦918.7 billion.

The committee’s report stated, “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.”

Recently, there has been serious contention about the state of the air fleet despite enormous government resources spent on it during past administrations. The unavailability of the president’s jet has seen President Bola Tinubu charter private jets, and Vice President Kashim Shettima abandon international trips.

On May 6, 2024, the Vice President abandoned his trip to the 2024 US-Africa Business Summit due to a technical fault with his official aircraft. The President had to board a commercial aircraft to Saudi Arabia after his main luxury jet was taken for rehabilitation, and a second aircraft developed a technical snag in The Netherlands.

The Presidency currently maintains a fleet of six aircraft: a Boeing 737, a Gulfstream G550, a Gulfstream GV, two Falcon 7Xs, and a Challenger CL605, as well as six helicopters—two Agusta 139s and four Agusta 189s.

During his eight-year tenure, Buhari’s government spent ₦62.47bn on the operation and maintenance of the Presidential Air Fleet (PAF). Despite a promise to reduce the size of the fleet to cut the cost of governance, his administration failed to fulfill this pledge. In the 2016 budget, ₦3.65bn was allocated for the PAF, rising to ₦4.37bn in 2017, and almost doubling in 2018 and 2019 to ₦7.26bn and ₦7.30bn, respectively. In 2020, the allocation dropped slightly to ₦6.79bn, then surged to ₦12.55bn and ₦12.48bn in 2021 and 2022, before the ₦8.07bn allocation in 2023.

Checks by Punch using GovSpend, a civic tech platform that tracks and analyses Federal Government spending, showed that Tinubu approved the disbursement of ₦14.77bn within one year of assuming office. This amount is separate from expenses incurred during foreign and local trips by the President, Vice-President, and other officials.

₦1.52bn was approved in July 2023 for maintenance, followed by ₦3.1bn in August, ₦1.26bn in November 2023, ₦2.54bn in March 2024, ₦6.35bn in April 2024, and ₦1.27bn in May 2024.

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