Wed. Jul 24th, 2024

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu flew to Pretoria for the second-term inauguration of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on a chartered aircraft due to the poor state of the presidential jet, it was revealed.

The President departed from Lagos on Monday aboard the chartered plane instead of the 737 Boeing Business Jet (BBJ), nicknamed Nigerian Air Force 001, the official aircraft of the President. According to a government source, the BBJ is currently undergoing a C-Check, making it unavailable for the trip. Additionally, other planes in the Presidential Air Fleet (PAF) are also not in suitable condition to undertake the journey.

Earlier this year, a trip by Vice President Kashim Shettima to the United States was aborted at the last minute because his official jet developed a fault. The source explained: “The President took a chartered plane to South Africa because most of the aircraft in PAF are currently undergoing routine maintenance due to their poor condition. The 737 Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) being used by Mr. President is also affected. The plane is more than 20 years old. None of the other jets in the fleet could be recalled from where they are undergoing checks to fly the President to South Africa.”

The source further emphasized the importance of safety, stating: “Technically, the aircraft which flew the President to Lagos for Eid-el Kabir was not fit enough to make the shuttle to the inauguration of the South African President. President Tinubu does not derive pleasure in flying about in a chartered jet. What will he gain? But when it comes to technical audit of the aircraft of PAF, safety is a top priority. It is better to mitigate any risk than aggravating it.”

The Presidential Fleet comprises 10 aircraft, including six jets and four helicopters. These are the Boeing Business Jets (BBJ) 737, Gulfstream G550, Gulfstream G500, two Falcons 7X, HS 4000, two Agusta 139, and two Agusta 101.

The same source indicated that no aircraft was in good enough condition to make the flight to South Africa. Over the past year, President Tinubu has been considering reducing the number of aircraft in the presidential fleet from 10 to seven as part of cost-saving measures. The three aircraft likely to be retired are the 737 Boeing Business Jet (BBJ), a Falcon jet, and an Embraer jet.

The BBJ was purchased for approximately $43 million during Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s presidency. However, the Federal Government has been advised to replace the aging Nigerian Air Force 001. Since 2016, the presidency has spent over N80 billion on the Presidential Fleet, managed by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).

A breakdown of the past budgets for the Presidential Air Fleet is as follows: 2016 (N3.65 billion); 2017 (N4.37 billion); 2018 (N7.26 billion); 2019 (N7.30 billion); 2020 (N6.79 billion); 2021 (N12.55 billion); 2022 (N12.48 billion); and in 2023 about N25.7 billion, which comprised N13 billion in the budget and N12.7 billion in the Supplementary Budget.

President Tinubu is reportedly uncomfortable with the rising maintenance costs of the fleet and has requested a reduction from 10 to seven aircraft in the first phase. Although there may be plans to acquire a new aircraft, it is likely that the fleet will be reduced.

In October 2016, then-President Muhammadu Buhari proposed selling two aircraft – a Dassault Falcon 7x executive jet and a Beechcraft Hawker 4000 business jet. Although preferred bidders initially agreed to pay $24 million for the two aircraft, they later reduced their offer to $11 million, which was rejected by the Buhari administration.

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