Under the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), the Presidential Air Fleet has so far cost taxpayers a total of N41.9bn, contrary to the promise Buhari made during the 2015 presidential election campaigns to reduce waste in governance by downsizing the presidential fleet.
As of October 2016, when the Presidency last made a public inventory of the PAF, the fleet included 10 aircraft, namely one Boeing Business Jet (or Air Force One) 737, one Gulfstream G550, one Gulfstream G500, one Hawker 4000, two Falcon 7X, two AgustaWestland AW139 helicopters, and two AgustaWestland AW101 helicopters.
By the Presidency’s own admission, Buhari’s promise to sell some of the aircraft in the fleet was aimed at minimising the cost of governance.
In October 2016, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, assured journalists that some of the presidential jets would be sold in line with Buhari’s directive that aircraft in the PAF be reduced to cut waste.
Shehu added that some aircraft in the fleet would also soon be handed over to the Nigerian Air Force for its operations.
He 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 liked 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.”
Days later, the National Security Adviser, Major General Babagana Monguno (retd), delivered the two AgustaWestland AW101 VIP helicopters in the presidential fleet to the Air Force.
Later in October 2016, the Buhari regime advertised the sale of two of a Falcon 7X executive jet and the Hawker 4000.
However, in March 2018, Shehu said in an interview that the bid amounts agreed upon by the two preferred bidders for the two aircraft stood at $24m, which was the projected sales figure.
The presidential spokesman, however, said the unnamed winners of the bids reneged when they were asked to pay. According to him, they came up with a new figure of $11m for the two jets.
Describing the preferred bidders’ attitude as absurd, Shehu said under the Buhari regime, no one would be allowed to “take a public asset and run away (with it) for nothing.”
He added that the Presidency was still determined to sell the jets, which he said were still available for “serious buyers.”
The proposed sale recorded a lull in public attention until September 2020, when the Federal Government announced that the Hawker 4000 aircraft, with registration number 5N-FGX/: RC 066, had again been put up for sale
But the purchase of the business-size jet, which entered into service in December 2011, has yet to be confirmed by the Presidency.
After taking office on May 29, 2015, the 2016 Appropriation Act signed by Buhari allocated N3.652bn for the upkeep of the presidential fleet. In 2017, the cost of maintenance of the presidential aircraft rose to N4.37bn (19.6 per cent). The figure then skyrocketed to N7.260bn (98.7 per cent) in 2018.
In 2019, the cost of maintaining the PAF again rose to N7.297bn (99.6 per cent). The allocation, however, fell to N6.793bn (86 per cent) in 2020. But in 2021, the budget for the presidential fleet saw its sharpest Buhari-era jump to N12.550bn (243.6 per cent).
By comparison, the 2015 budget, which was in effect upon Buhari’s inauguration, earmarked N5.190bn for the presidential fleet. The appropriation for the PAF in 2021 indicates a 243.6 per cent increase from the allocation six years prior.
Each of the Falcon 7X jets were purchased in 2010 by the Federal Government for $51.1m, while the Gulfstream G550 costs $53.3m, according to a former Minister of Information, the late Prof Dora Akunyili.
Estimates from online listings and airline executives showed the factory prices for the other aircraft in the fleet as follows: Boeing Business Jet – $59m; Hawker 4000 – $22.9m; AgustaWestland AW139 – $12m; and AgustaWestland AW101 – $21m.
This brings the combined estimated value of Nigeria’s PAF to $347.4m (N142.96bn).