Presidential fleet funding spikes to N81bn under Buhari

The federal government’s budgetary allocation to the Presidential Air Fleet has risen by 121 per cent in nearly eight years under President Muhammadu Buhari.

According to findings, President Buhari has since 2016 allocated N81.80bn for the Presidential Air Fleet maintenance and foreign trips.

The amount includes N62.47bn for the operation and maintenance of PAF, N17.29bn for foreign and local trips and N2.04bn earmarked for other related expenses, Punch reported.

The Presidency has maintained 10 aircraft since the inception of the Buhari regime in May 2015.

They include Boeing Business Jet (Boeing 737-800 or NAF 001), one Gulfstream 550, one Gulfstream V (Gulfstream 500), two Falcons 7X, one Hawker Sidley 4000, two AgustaWestland AW 139 helicopters and two AgustaWestland AW 101 helicopters.

Though Buhari promised to reduce the size of the fleet as part of his pledge to cut the cost of governance, checks reveal that his regime has failed to live up to this promise.

In October 2016, the Presidency placed an advertisement in a national daily for the sale of Falcon 7x and Hawker 4000.

Interested buyers were asked to inspect the Falcon at the Presidential Wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International, Airport, Abuja, and the Hawker at Cessna Zurich Citation Service Centre, Zurich, Switzerland.

In March 2018, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu told Saturday PUNCH 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.”

In September 2020, 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 sale of the business-size jet, which entered into service in December 2011, has yet to be confirmed by the Presidency.

However, the National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (retd), delivered the two AgustaWestland AW101 VIP helicopters in the presidential fleet to the Air Force.

In the 2016 budget, N3.65bn was allocated for the PAF, but this rose to N4.37bn in the 2017 fiscal year.

In 2018 and 2019, the allocation almost doubled, amounting to N7.26bn and N7.30bn respectively.

Closer observation showed a slight drop by N503.75m in 2020, where N6.79bn was budgeted for the PAFs.

This was attributed to the global lockdown following the outbreak of the Coronavirus which stalled flight operations for the better part of 2020.

In the two years following the pandemic, the allocation almost doubled; rising to N12.55bn and N12.48bn for the 2021 and 2022 fiscal budgets.

However, it dropped by 35 per cent in the 2022 and 2023 appropriation bills, with the latter showing an N8.07bn allocation for the PAF.

Punch also observed that the Offices of the President and Vice President earmarked N17.29bn for both local and foreign trips.

Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo spent N1.4bn on travels in 2016; N1.29bn in 2017; N1.30bn in 2018; N1.30bn in 2019; N2.28bn in 2020; N3.23bn in 2021 and N3.09bn in 2022. They proposed N3.34bn for the 2023 fiscal year.

Aircraft fueling for that period also gulped at least N2.69bn, bank charges, N53.01m and insurance premium on all 10 aircraft on the fleet, N1.78bn.

Meanwhile, the sum of N2.04bn has been allocated for foodstuff and refreshments since 2016.

A comparison of the budgets for the review period revealed a 265 per cent jump in allocations for food and refreshments.

According to the budget documents, in eight years of the Buhari Presidency, N139.2m was allocated for food in 2016; N168.46m in 2017; N193.11m in 2018;

N193.11m in 2019; N132.13m in 2020; N193.11m in 2021 and N508.71m in 2022.

The Presidency allocated N508.71m for refreshments in the 2023 budget presented by the President last Friday.

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