Nigerians enraged as FG moves to acquire new presidential jets

The House of Representatives Committee on National Security and Intelligence recently stirred the hornet’s nest when it asked the Federal Government to purchase two new aircrafts for President Bola Tinubu and Vice-President Kashim Shettima. Nigerians went wild with anger when the committee’s recommendation came to the public knowledge. The recommendation was contained in a report […] Nigerians enraged as FG moves to acquire new presidential jets

Jun 23, 2024 - 07:31
Nigerians enraged as FG moves to acquire new presidential jets

The House of Representatives Committee on National Security and Intelligence recently stirred the hornet’s nest when it asked the Federal Government to purchase two new aircrafts for President Bola Tinubu and Vice-President Kashim Shettima.

Nigerians went wild with anger when the committee’s recommendation came to the public knowledge.

The recommendation was contained in a report of the committee’s investigation into the status of the aircraft in the presidential air fleet.

“The committee is of the strong and informed opinion that considering the fragile structure of the Nigerian federation and recognising the dire consequences of any foreseen or unforeseen mishap that may arise as a result of the technical or operational inadequacy of the presidential air fleet, it is in the best interest of the country to procure two additional aircrafts as recommended.

“This will also prove to be most cost-efficient in the long run, apart from the added advantage of providing a suitable, comfortable, and safe carrier befitting of the status and responsibilities of the office of the president and vice-president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” the report stated.

The committee was mandated by the lower chamber of the national assembly in May to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the aircraft in the presidential fleet to ascertain their airworthiness and technical status.

The assignment followed a motion by the House Committee Chairman on National Security and Intelligence, Satomi Ahmed.

According to reports, Ahmed’s motion followed reports of faulty aircraft in the presidential air fleet, a development that forced the President to use a chartered plane from the Netherlands to Saudi Arabia during his recent trip abroad

There was a heated debate on the floor of the House when some lawmakers suggested that the President should travel via commercial aircraft or by road.

But in the end, the Committee was given the assignment to investigate and report to the House the condition of aircrafts in the presidential fleet.

To be on the same page, Chairman of the Senate Committee on National Security and Intelligence, Shehu Buba Umar, also supported the recommendation by the lower chamber’s committee.

Ever since the news broke out, Nigerians have been speaking against the move, with many saying the President cannot continue to spend money on luxury and ask Nigerians to be patient with the government.

Others are saying that even if the government wants to buy new aircrafts for the president and vice president, it should not be at this critical period when most Nigerians find it extremely difficult to feed once a day.

Recall that the Organised Labour and the Federal Government have been at loggerheads over a new national minimum wage.

While Labour is pushing for N250,000, the government said it could only afford N62,000 due to economic constraints.

Now, some persons are questioning the rationale behind the move to acquire new aircrafts when the government said it cannot pay a beggarly sum of N62,000 to workers.

Reacting to the development, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, through its national Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba said there was no moral justification to ask Nigerians to make further sacrifices when the leaders don’t care whether the people survived or perished.

Stressing that the government must live by example by cutting luxury items, he said the citizens have been making sacrifices since the advent of the Tinubu administration on May 29, 2023. He argued that asking Nigerians to make further sacrifices amounts to telling them to commit suicide.

“If the government is so reckless in spending, then it has no moral justification to ask the citizens to sacrifice. In any event, the appropriate word is to say to the government, ‘let the poor breathe.’ That would be the right word to say to them.

“There are millions of families in this country that could not celebrate the very special celebration of Eid. They couldn’t celebrate it because they couldn’t afford it.

“So, for the government to nurse such plans shows they are disconnected with the realities on ground, which is that people are dying on a daily basis because they cannot afford food.

“People are dying on a daily basis because they cannot buy medicine. People are dying by reason of the fact that they are frustrated and they commit suicide on a daily basis. And the government seems to be disconnected and averse to the reality in the nation.

“Our own advice as a party is that the President should live by example, by first of all, ensuring that the corruption and the excessive maintenance of their luxury appetites are cut.

“We have said it severally that the government must stop pursuing and funding their luxury appetites. And it comes in the form of vehicles, the nature of vehicles and the number of vehicles.

“The government has no moral justification. Indeed, Nigerians have been sacrificing. They have been sacrificing from day one; since May 29, 2023 when this government came in.

“It started with the rash and ill-thought programme of removing fuel subsidy. Nigerians have been suffering on the basis of that. They have been paying more on electricity tariff, and paying more on multiple taxes being imposed on them.

“These people are suffocating. Telling them to sacrifice more is like saying go and commit suicide. That is what they are saying. It is the government that should sacrifice now. The leadership should show examples.

“And if there is any plan at all to purchase an aircraft, then President Tinubu should perish the thought. Number one, the British Prime Minister flies British Airways. At the last count, we have about seven or nine aircrafts in the Presidential fleet. Former President Muhammadu Buhari came and said he was going to sell all of them; instead of selling, he acquired more,” he said.

Also reacting, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, through its spokesman, Mr Benson Upah accused the Federal Government and the ruling elite of prioritizing luxury over the needs of the Nigerian people.

He said: “When it comes to the comfort of members of the ruling political elite, there is no limit to what the state can do. But, when it comes to the basic necessities of the ordinary Nigerian, they begin to use a calculator.

“As long as the ruling elite consider themselves over and above every other citizen, every need, and every necessity, there will continue to be hunger and anger in the land.

“There is always enough for the pleasures or the passions of the ruling political elite, but never enough for the necessities of the citizenry. Purchasing a presidential jet cannot be a necessity for now, given the complaints or comments from the ruling political elite. It cannot be a priority for now.”

He cited examples of other countries where their leaders fly commercial planes just to save money for their countries.

“We have many leaders, including the Kenyan president, and others, who fly commercial planes,” he said in a statement.

Reacting through his official X handle, former governor of Anambra State and Labour Party, LP, presidential candidate in the 2023 general elections, Mr. Peter Obi said the plan to acquire new presidential aircrafts was unacceptable and a clear show of insensitivity to the suffering of the people.

He advised the government to focus on alleviating the sufferings of Nigerians rather than wasting money on such luxuries.

He said: “At a time when our country is on the front page of global newspapers for facing its worst economic crisis, marked by high inflation, a falling currency, and widespread poverty, the government is contemplating buying new presidential jets. This demonstrates extreme insensitivity to citizens’ struggles.

“With rising insecurity, poverty, hunger, and homelessness, this decision highlights the disconnect that is apparent between the government and the people.

“It is unacceptable as the situation in the country today more than ever before demands a more compassionate use of resources, and prioritising citizens’ welfare.

“It’s on record that our presidential jets have an average age of 12 years, purchased when most Nigerians could afford basic necessities. Now, as our country faces significant challenges, including a high debt profile, our citizens are in even greater need. Instead of adding to our luxuries, we should be focused on alleviating their sufferings, and finding solutions to their problems.

“For long, our bad leadership has made our priorities as leaders to be at variance with the needs of the society, which is why we are now headed south as a nation.

“To elucidate further, despite dropping down to the fourth largest economy in Africa, with a GDP of $252 billion and a per capita income of $1,080, with huge debt burdens and borrowing to service debts, yet, we are spending $15 million for our Vice President’s residence, while the USA, the world’s largest economy with a GDP of $25 trillion, about 100 times our GDP, and a per capita income of $80,000, about 80 times ours, still houses their Vice President in Number 1 Observatory Circle, a house built over 100 years ago, and whose value is less than the $15 million we are spending on our VP’s residence.

“A reputable real estate company reports that the US Vice President’s official residence is valued at about $7.5 million today.

“While we had earlier refurbished the old VP’s residence with $2 million, the over 100-year-old US Vice President’s house has only undergone wide-scale renovations twice, funded by taxpayers’ money in 1993 and 2021. Every new US VP is free to finance any minor refurbishing from his funds.

“It’s, therefore, time to stop this impunity, insensitivity, and shamelessness and refocus on the needs of our people.

“We must prioritise education, healthcare, and lifting our citizens out of poverty. Let us work together to build a nation that truly serves its people, not just the interests of a few. Let’s rise to the challenge, and build this new Nigeria which is now more possible than ever before.”

President of the Middle Belt Forum, MBF, Dr. Pogu Bitrus, cautioned the president to be more sensitive to the plight of Nigerians and not indulge in extravagant expenditures.

According to him, “He’s supposed to live by example. If the economy is okay, he can buy a presidential jet, and no one would raise an eyebrow. But, given that the economy is in a bad shape and he knows it, he should be sensitive enough not to spend money on things that are not necessary.”

“However, if he can justify to Nigerians that the current jet is in such bad shape, and that his security is at risk if he uses it, we can understand. But, no one has given us such an explanation. As far as we are concerned, it is just one of those extravagant expenditures,” he told DAILY POST.

For the president of the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum, AYCF, Alhaji Yerima Shettima, the idea was insensitive to the current economic hardship in the land.

“I am totally not in support of any new aircraft at the moment. Rather, he should stay at home and work or manage the available ones.

“Let us be honest with ourselves, this is not acceptable and Nigerians must not be in support of this idea.

“This is a clarion call; Nigerians must resist and condemn this move. We are just recovering from the SUV for National Assembly members and they are now talking about buying a private jet. No, this is wrong and unacceptable,” he said in an interview with DAILY POST.

Nigerians enraged as FG moves to acquire new presidential jets

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