FG Spends N90bn On Presidential Air Fleets In 9 Years —
The allocation of substantial funds by the Federal Government for the presidential air fleet has raised significant concerns, with more than N90 billion earmarked over the past nine years.
This consistent increase in budgetary allocations has become a topic of intense scrutiny, leading to questions about the government’s financial priorities and the responsible utilization of public funds.
For instance, during the first four years of former President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure, a total of N20.42 billion was allocated for the presidential fleets.
Surprisingly, this allocation doubled in his second term, reaching N41 billion.
Last week, President Bola Tinubu presented the 2023 supplementary budget proposal to the House of Representatives, revealing that the Presidential Air Fleet, located in the Office of the National Security Adviser section, is set to receive a budget allocation of N12.7 billion.
Combined with the previously earmarked N13 billion in the approved budget, this brings the total to N25.7 billion.
These developments have sparked a profound national conversation about the significance of these allocations and intensified calls for transparency and accountability in the utilization of these resources.
The presidential air fleet, often referred to as Nigeria Air Force One, comprises a diverse range of aircraft, including Boeing Business Jets (BBJ) 737, Gulfstream G550, Gulfstream G500, two Falcon 7X, HS 4000, two Agusta 139, and two Agusta 101.
Allocations since 2015
It would be recalled that in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari had pledged to reduce the cost of governance and even planned to sell two luxury aircraft, a Dassault Falcon 7x executive jet, and a Beechcraft Hawker 4000 business jet. However, the sale process faced challenges, with preferred bidders initially agreeing to a projected sales figure of $24 million but later seeking to renegotiate at $11 million.
In a further development, the Hawker 4000 aircraft was announced for sale in September 2020, although its actual sale by the Presidency is yet to be confirmed.
Notably, the National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (retired), delivered two AgustaWestland AW101 VIP helicopters from the presidential fleet to the Air Force.
In terms of budget allocations, there has been a fluctuation over the years. In 2016, N3.65 billion was allocated for the Presidential Air Fleet, with subsequent increases in 2017, 2018, and 2019, reaching N4.37 billion, N7.26 billion, and N7.30 billion, respectively. However, a slight drop of N503.75 million occurred in 2020 when N6.79 billion was budgeted due to the global lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which significantly impacted flight operations. In the two years following the pandemic, the allocation surged, rising to N12.55 billion and N12.48 billion for the 2021 and 2022 fiscal budgets, respectively.
While reacting to the development, the President of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of Nigeria and former CEO of Associated Airlines, Alex Nwuba, said: “We know the naira has depreciated at least 50 percent, inflation is over 30 percent and unemployment adds to our economic woes.
“We can at least expect a doubling of the budget as illustrated.”
“Aviation is a key tool of governance but in tight economic times we need to tighten our belts and avoid abuse like unauthorized use of public assets”.