Olalekan Adetayo, Oyetunji Abioye, Nnodim Okechukwu and Maureen Ihua-Maduenyi
The Presidency on Tuesday confirmed that newspaper advertisements for the sale of two presidential aircraft, a Falcon 7X executive jet and Hawker 4000, were duly authorised by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, confirmed this in a statement made available to journalists.
Shehu said the decision to sell the jets was in line with the directive of the President that aircraft in the Presidential Air Fleet should be reduced to cut down on waste.
He explained that the reduction would not end with the sale of the two jets.
The presidential spokesman said some aircraft in the fleet would also soon be handed over to the Nigeria Air Force for its operations.
Shehu said, “When he campaigned to be President, the then APC candidate Muhammadu Buhari, if you recall, promised to look at the Presidential Air Fleet with a view to cutting down on waste.
“His directive to a government committee on this assignment is that he likes to see a compact and reliable aircraft for the safe airlift of the President, the Vice-President and other government officials that go on special missions.
“This exercise is by no means complete. I am sure the Commander of the Presidential Air Fleet will any time from now call you to a ceremony at which he will hand over some other aircraft to the Air Force for their operations.”
According to the Presidency, PAF currently has 10 aircraft. These are: Boeing Business Jet (Boeing 737-800 or AirForce One), one Gulfstream 550, one Gulfstream V (Gulfstream 500), two Falcons 7X, one Hawker Sidley 4000, two AgustaWestland AW 139 helicopters and two AgustaWestland AW 101 helicopters.
Each of the two Falcon 7X jets were purchased in 2010 by the Federal Government for $51.1m, while the Gulfstream 550 costs $53.3m, a former Minister of Information, the late Prof. Dora Akunyili, had said.
The price of other aircraft in the fleet could not be ascertained. But according to Wikipedia, price.wescrawler.com and airline executives, the factory price of other aircraft in the fleet are: Boeing Business Jet, $59m; HS 4000, $22.9m; AgustaWestland 139, $12m; and AgusatWestland 101, $21m.
This brings a combined estimated value of Nigeria’s PAF to $347.4m (N106.13bn).
Quoting a document from the Presidency, despite the biting economic recession in the country, the Federal Government spent N5bn on the 10-aicraft PAF in the last 15 months.
According to the document, the Presidency put the amount so far released for the fleet since the inception of the current administration in May 2015 at N5bn.
The breakdown of the sum showed that N2.3bn was released for PAF by the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation between May and November 2015.
That figure included releases for personnel costs, overheads and capital expenditures; out of the N5.19bn appropriated for PAF in the 2015 budget.
Of the sum, the Presidency said N99.715m was spent on aircraft maintenance, spares and subscription services.
The sum of N98.5m was also spent on operations; N165.373m on training and N85.5m on personnel medicals and overheads.
During the period, the document claimed that PAF spent N1.350bn to settle outstanding liabilities carried over from 2014 while N500m was refunded to the NSA for financial support rendered for the maintenance of the Fleet prior to release of funds.
According to the newspaper advertisement announcing the sale of the two aircraft, the Falcon 7X with registration number 5N-FGU and serial number 090 is currently located in Abuja.
It indicated that the aircraft entered into service in 2011 and had completed 2776:47 hours and 2363 cycles.
The advertisement read in part, “Take off at sea level — 5, 555 ft; landing distance — 2,070ft; certified ceiling — 51, 000ft; cruise speed — 488kts; Easy II Avionics 1A Complainct/Satcom. Interior: Passenger capacity — 16, crew seating capacity — 3; forward and Aft lavatories; four large screen monitors; six small adjustable seat mounted monitors and fully automated media centre.”
The second aircraft, Hawker 4000 with registration number 5N-FGX and serial number RC 066 entered into service in 2012. It has completed 1178:15 hours and 1146 cycles.
Its details were given thus: “Range — 3190NM; take off at sea level — 5,068 ft; landing distance — 2,475ft; certified ceiling — 45, 000ft; cruise speed — 482kts; Honeywell Primus Epic Avionics/Satcom. Interior: Passenger capacity — 9, crew seating capacity – 3 with detachable jump seat; Aft lavatories; two monitors; power outlet in cabin and cockpit and fully automated media centre.”
Meanwhile, aviation stakeholders have supported the Presidency’s move to sell the aircraft.
The General Secretary, Aviation Round Table, an industry pressure group, Group Captain John Ojikutu, who supported the move, said, “It is high time the Presidency reduced the number of aircraft in that fleet. We can’t be spending our scarce forex to maintain a large fleet of 10 aircraft.”
A former Assistant General Secretary, Airline Operators of Nigeria, Mr. Muhammed Tukur, also supported the move, saying the aircraft could be sold to both airline operators and private individuals who could use them for commercial purposes.
He said that this could generate more revenue and create jobs.
A former President of the Airline Operators of Nigeria, Dr. Steve Mahonwu, stated that instead of selling the aircraft, the Federal Government should hold on until it was ready to float a national carrier and should then make the planes serve the airline.
He said, “Are we not ashamed that several years after the demise of our Nigerian Airways, we still don’t have an airline we can call our own? Instead of selling these aircraft, why not hold on till when you are ready for a national carrier?
“The President promised to reduce the Presidential fleet size and that’s okay. He has also assured Nigerians that he will ensure the return of our national carrier. So instead of selling the aircraft in the Presidential fleet, you can convert some of them and use them as jets in the national carrier.”
But Capt. Dele Ore of the Aviation Round Table, a body of industry experts, told our correspondent that it would not be right to sell the aircraft without carrying out adequate studies to ascertain if truly the Presidency would not need them any longer.
According to him, the two aircraft in question would not be fit for full-scale commercial service.