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.
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.”
However, in March 2018, Shehu said 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 purchase of the business-size jet, which entered into service in December 2011, has yet to be confirmed by the Presidency.
Upkeep of presidential fleet rises by 243% in six years
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).
UK medical trips cost millions in airport parking fees
Meanwhile, Buhari’s frequent trips to the United Kingdom have drawn the ire of many citizens for the costs incurred in airport parking charges for the presidential aircraft.
Based on a tally of public announcements of Buhari’s visits to the United Kingdom for medical care, as of Friday, when he returned from his last trip, the President has spent 213 non-consecutive days having foreign check-ups.
According to a document titled ‘Fees and Charges 2019-2020’ available on the website of Birmingham Airport, UK, aircraft parking costs between £23.87 (N13,605.90) and £166.67 (N95,001.90) per day, depending on the weight of the aircraft.
Using the airport’s estimate, the Federal Government may have spent between N2,898,056.70 and N20,235,404.70 on parking a single presidential aircraft, just for the period the President has been in the UK on medical trips.