How Nigerian govt spent over N14bn on presidential jets in 11 months – Report

The administration of President Bola Tinubu has spent a total of N14.77bn on the repair and maintenance of the presidential air fleet over the past 11 months, as revealed by a recent State House report.

According to a report by The PUNCH, the expenditure, which was disbursed in 11 payments from July 16, 2023, to May 25, 2024, was managed through the State House’s Presidential Air Fleet Transit Funds account.

The significant spending comes amid plans by the National Assembly to authorize the purchase of two new aircraft. This decision follows the discovery that the President’s 19-year-old Boeing 737, along with other aircraft in the fleet, are no longer fully functional.

A technical subcommittee report from the House of Representatives Committee on National Security and Intelligence recommended the procurement of the new aircraft, which is estimated to cost over $623.4 million (N918.7bn).

The report emphasized the necessity of this purchase to ensure the safety and operational efficiency of the Presidential Air Fleet.

Despite the large expenditures, the condition of the fleet has forced President Tinubu to charter private jets and Vice President Kashim Shettima to cancel international trips. For instance, on May 6, 2024, Shettima abandoned a trip to the US-Africa Business Summit due to a technical issue with his official aircraft.

Currently, the Presidential Air Fleet includes six aircraft: a Boeing 737, a Gulfstream G550, a Gulfstream GV, two Falcon 7Xs, and a Challenger CL605, along with six helicopters.

During former President Muhammadu Buhari’s eight-year tenure, N62.47bn was spent on the fleet’s maintenance and operations. Despite his pledge to reduce the fleet size to cut governance costs, the budget allocation for the fleet increased significantly, from N3.65bn in 2016 to N12.48bn in 2022.

According to data from GovSpend, a civic tech platform, Tinubu’s administration approved the N14.77bn in maintenance funds within a year of taking office. The largest payments included N1.52bn in July 2023, N3.1bn in August, and N6.35bn in April 2024.

Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, defended the necessity of new aircraft, stating it is essential for the President’s safety and welfare.

In contrast, the Labour Party and the New Nigeria People’s Party criticized the government’s plan to acquire new planes. Labour Party’s National Publicity Secretary, Obiora Ifoh, called the move “misplaced priority,” especially given the economic hardships facing Nigerians. He argued for refurbishing existing aircraft instead of purchasing new ones.

The APC countered these criticisms, emphasizing the importance of the President’s safety. Dr. Ijeoma Arodiogbu, APC National Vice-Chairman (South-East), highlighted recent incidents involving other world leaders’ aircraft failures, arguing that the safety of the President should not be compromised.

The debate over the allocation of resources for the Presidential Air Fleet continues as the nation grapples with economic challenges.

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