• 10 jets, yet, the president wants more !
The state of the nation cannot be better underscored than by reports that the N9bn Nigerian Air Force 001 (5N-FGT) presidential jet failed to deliver value for money when President Goodluck Jonathan was about boarding it. Not only that, the fact that three jets from the Presidential Fleet were used for the trip which was strictly a party affair also signposts the wastefulness in the government.
The president was about leaving the North-Central Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) rally that held at the Trade Fair Centre, Minna, Niger State, when the incident happened. He was reportedly about leaving Minna for another visit to Sokoto State when the plane suddenly developed fault. On board at the time, with the President waiting to be air borne were Adamu Muazu, National Chairman of the PDP, Tony Anenih, chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees, Ahmadu Ali, former chairman of the party and Attahiru Bafarawa, former Sokoto State governor, among others. The team was later forced to disembark from the plane while the battle to diagnose and fix the problem went on.
The plane that conveyed Vice President Namadi Sambo to the rally – a 5N-FGW smaller presidential jet was eventually used by the president while Sambo joined Senate President David Mark in another smaller presidential jet -5N-FGV- which conveyed the Senate President to the state. What this means is that a trivial ruling party’s rally witnessed deployment of three presidential jets that are serviced with tax payers’ money. Such acquisitions smack of contempt at a period when about 120 million Nigerians live below poverty level.
According to reports, the Presidential Fleet boasts 10 jets at the moment; yet, the presidency intends to acquire more. We wonder what is driving leaders in the nation away from the roads that commoners ply every day. May be this is because they have failed in their obligations to repair most highways/roads which terrorists and kidnappers have hijacked due to insecurity in the land. It is pathetic that many Nigerians die daily on these roads being heartlessly avoided by their leaders.
We are worried by the cost of maintaining the Presidential Fleet which the Airspace Management Agency, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority and Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, estimated at N9.08bn annually. The fleet include two Falcon 7X jets, two Falcon 900 jets, Gulf stream 550, one Boeing 737 BBJ (Nigerian Air Force 001 or Eagle One), and Gulf stream IVSP. Others are one Gulf stream V, Cessna Citation 2 aircraft and Hawker Siddley 125-800 jet. Despite the huge spending on the fleet – at grossly insensitive public expense – it is sad that one of them carrying the president still developed fault while on duty.
We are disturbed that the Presidential Fleet is competing with commercial airline operators given the number of aircraft in the fleet. Indeed, we wonder whether there is any compelling necessity for the fleet to be the third largest in the country. Assuming our commercial airlines are efficient, top government functionaries, including even the president can at best charter jets for important trips. After all, Queen Elizabeth of England and Prime Minister David Cameron often go on British Airways’ chartered flights for long trips.
The unnecessary proclivity of the presidency for expansive Presidential Fleet that is obviously ill-maintained (judging from what happened in Minna), despite the whopping budget set aside for its maintenance, does not project the country as a serious one to the outside world.