President Muhammadu Buhari’s senior aide on media and publicity, Garba Shehu, has denied media reports that the present administration had spent close to N6 billion on the presidential air fleet (PAF) since its inauguration in May 2015. In a statement issued earlier today, Mr. Shehu stated that the Buhari administration had so far spent only N2.127 billion on the PAF.
Last Saturday, the Saturday Punch reported that there were 10 aircraft in the fleet. There had been speculations that the fleet boasted as many as 14 planes. The Punch also reported that the Buhari administration had inherited all the planes, worth an estimated N77.319 billion, from President Goodluck Jonathan’s government.
Citing aviation experts, the report had reported that the total cost of maintaining the fleet was about 15-20% of the price of the fleet. Utilizing the more conservative 15% rate, the Punch concluded that the Buhari government must have spent N5.8 billion to run the fleet since last May.
However, Mr. Shehu denied that the Federal Government had spent N5.8 billion on the fleet. “N2.3 billion was released to the Presidential Air Fleet (PAF) by the office of the Accountant General of the Federation between May and November 2015,” he stated. He added: “This includes releases for personnel cost, overhead and capital expenditure out of the sum of N5, 190,381,386 appropriated for PAF in the 2015 budget.”
SaharaReporters confirmed from BudgIT that N5,190,381,386 was the total budgetary amount for the fleet in the current financial year.
According to Mr. Shehu, the spending on the presidential fleet exceeded what was budgeted due to outstanding debts left over by former President Jonathan’s administration. He stated that “the Fleet expended the sum of N1,358,910,962.75 to settle outstanding liabilities carried over from last year till May 2015. Furthermore, the sum of N500 million was refunded to the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) for the financial support rendered to the Fleet prior to the release of funds from the OAGF [Office of the Accountant General of the Federation].”
Mr. Shehu revealed that 59% of the total funds allocated for the fleet went to paying off debts owed by the Jonathan administration. He added that the Buhari administration could have provided documents outlining these facts to the Punch newspaper if the paper had requested. He stated that, if the paper had asked for the documents prior to publishing their report, “the damage to the image of government and the good management of the Presidential Air Fleet could have been avoided.”
Mr. Shehu also enumerated the specific aircraft in the presidential fleet, corroborating information gathered independently by SaharaReporters. The fleet consists of one Boeing 737 BBJ (5N FGT), one Gulfstream G550 (5N FGW), one Gulfstream GV (5N FGS), two Falcon 7X jets (5N FGU, 5N FGV), two Agusta AW139 (NAF 540, NAF 541), two Agusta AW101 (NAF 280), and one HS 4000 (5N NOC).
The Punch report had questioned the economic wisdom of Nigeria maintaining a presidential fleet of 10 jets. The paper noted that numerous world leaders have a fleet of aircraft, but remarked that few nations designate as many as 10 aircraft for the travel of their leaders. For example, the office of the Japanese Prime Minister has two 747 Boeing jets to meet the travel needs of whoever is the PM.
The Punch also reported that several experts had suggested that the Nigerian government should sell off most of its presidential fleet aircraft to private Nigerian companies. According to the newspaper, the experts noted that the sale would provide much-needed revenue for the country, and create jobs in the aviation sector.