The Federal Government may have spent about N5.8bn on the 10-aircraft Presidential Air Fleet it inherited from the former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, findings by Saturday PUNCH have shown.
The PAF is the third largest fleet in the country, coming after Arik Air and Aerocontractors Airlines which have 23 and 12 aircraft in their fleets respectively.
Other domestic airlines including FirstNation, MedView Airlines, Dana Air, Air Peace and Overland Airways have less than 10 aircraft each in their fleets.
According to calculations done from estimated data obtained from aviation parastatals and domestic airline operators in the country, President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration will have spent about $58.58m (N11.598bn) on running and maintaining the 10-aicraft presidential fleet by May 29 next year when it turns one year in office.
This means that the half of this amount, $29.29m (N5.799bn), is expected to have been spent in principle on the large fleet when administration turns six months in office by November 29.
According to findings, the PAF contains two Falcon 7X jets, two Falcon 900 jets, one Gulfstream 550, one Boeing 737 BBJ (Nigerian Air Force 001 or Eagle One), and Gulfstream IVSP.
Others are one Gulfstream V, Cessna Citation 2 and Hawker Siddley 125-800 jet.
Each of the two Falcon 7X jets were purchased in 2010 by the Federal Government for $51.1m, while the Gulfstream 550 costs $53.3m, a former Minister of Information, the late Professor, Dora Akunyili, had said.
The factory price of other aircraft in the fleet could not be obtained online. However, airline CEOs put the average price of Falcon 900 at $35m, Gulfstream IVSP at $40m, Gulfstream V at $45m, Boeing 737-800 (Boeing Business Jet) at $58m, Cessna Citation at $7m and Hawker Siddley 125-800 at $15m.
This brings a combined estimated value of Nigeria’s PAF to $390.5m (N77.319bn).
According to airline chief executives and industry experts, airlines spend between 15 and 20 per cent of the cost of an aircraft on its operation yearly. They say that averagely, a little less than one-fifth of the cost of the plane is spent every year on insurance, flight and cabin crew, maintenance, fuelling, catering and training.
Using the least figure of 15 per cent, it means that about $58.58m (N11.598bn) will be spent on the presidential fleet (which is valued at $390.5m or N77.319bn) when the new administration turns one year by May 29 next year.
Apparently, by November 29 when it turns six months in office, about half of this amount ($29.29m or N5.799bn) should have been budgeted for the running and maintenance of the planes.
According to the Nigerian Air Force’s website, the PAF’s current staff strength consists of 47 NAF officers, 173 airmen/airwomen and 96 technical and administrative civilians.
“The operational headquarters of the fleet is located at the presidential wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, while the administrative personnel are at the federal secretariat. The fleet has a liaison office at the Presidential Villa. Flight operations, training, aircraft maintenance and general running of the fleet are funded by the Presidency,” according to the website.
Nigeria happens to be one of few countries of the world with a large PAF.
Most major countries in Europe and Asia maintain two aircraft in their PAF, according to Wikipedia.
According to the online portal, Japan maintains only two Boeing 747-400 planes in its PAF.
The two aircraft, mostly for the prime minister, the emperor and his wife, and other members of the Imperial Family, is operated by the Japan Air Self-Defence Force.
The aircraft were constructed at the Boeing factory at the same time as the United States’ Air Force One. Both Japanese aircraft were delivered in 1990.
Wikipedia also states that the Netherlands government operates only two aircraft, a Fokker 70 and Gulfstream IV to transport the Dutch Royal family and government officials such as the Prime Minister and other ministers.
They are also used for international conferences and for private trips by the Queen and the Prince of Orange. For long haul trips, the Royal Dutch Airline is used. Often the upper deck of a Boeing 747 is used.
The Queen of England and the Prime Minister, David Cameron, often go on British Airways chartered flights for long trips. Cameron was recently criticised by the United Kingdom media for chartering a foreign plane instead of a British.
According to Wikipedia, the Royal Squadron of the Royal Air Force maintains a fleet of Agusta A109 helicopters, BAE-125 mid-sized business jet and BAE-146 regional airliner to support short travel by the Royal Family, the Prime Minister and senior members of the British Government.
Countries like Ghana, Algeria and a host of others in Europe maintain only one aircraft in their PAF.
A few weeks after his inauguration, Buhari had reportedly ordered the immediate disposal of some of the planes in the PAF.
However, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, later denied knowledge of such directive.
“The story of the order for the sale of aircraft in the Presidential Fleet, about which so much interest is being expressed, is not known to us,” Shehu said.
The exact size of the PAF is treated as classified information and aviation sources believe the aircraft in the fleet is about 16.
Chief of the planes in the fleet is the Boeing 738 BBJ, NAF 001 or Eagle One, used by the president for his travels.
With its luxury configuration comprising a master bedroom, washrooms and showers, a conference and dinning area, and a living area, the plane seats 25 to 50 passengers and would cost at least $100m to replace.
Eagle One can spend 12 hours in the air, covering 11,489 kilomtres or 6,200 nautical miles.
Apart from the Eagle One, the fleet boasts of Gulfstream 550 jet. The Gulfstream 550 can seat eight to 18 passengers, depending on the configuration, and has a cruiser range of 12,501 kilometres or 6,750 nautical miles.
There are reports that Buhari may also order the sale of about 25 aircraft owned by ministries, departments and agencies.
These include Nigeria Customs Service, which has four aircraft namely two Bell helicopters, one Dornier 228 and one Cessna Citation private jet; the Nigerian Police Force, which has 10 helicopters and one Cessna Sovereign private jet; and the Nigeria Immigration Service, which has six aircraft that are being used for border patrol.
Others are the National Emergency Management Agency, which has four helicopters and one Cessna Encorprivate jet; the Ministry of Aviation, which has a Hawker Siddley calibration jet that is not being used; and the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria which has six German-made helicopters that are no longer serviceable.
Aviation experts said there was need for Buhari to reduce the size of the PAF.
The General Secretary, Aviation Round Table, an industry pressure group, Group Captain John Ojikutu, said Buhari needed to reduce the PAF and sell aircraft belonging to most of the MDAs.
A former Assistant General Secretary, Airline Operators of Nigeria, Mr. Muhammed Tukur, also said the aircraft could be sold to both airline operators and private individuals who could use them for commercial purposes.
He said that this could generate more revenue and create jobs.