Why Tinubu Flew To South Africa On Chartered Aircraft

Why Tinubu Flew To South Africa On Chartered Aircraft
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President Bola Ahmed Tinubu flew to Pretoria for yesterday’s second term inauguration of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on a chartered aircraft because of the poor state of the presidential jet, it was learnt.

The President left from Lagos on Monday aboard the chartered plane instead of the 737 Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) nicknamed Nigerian Air Force 001, which is the official aircraft of the President.

A source in the government said the BBJ is undergoing C-Check making it unavailable for the trip.

Besides, other planes in the Presidential Air Fleet (PAF) are equally not in a good state to make the journey.

Earlier in the year, a trip by Vice President Kashim Shettima for an assignment in the United States (U.S.) was aborted at the last minute because his official jet developed fault.

The source said: “The President took a chartered plane to South Africa because most of the aircraft in PAF are currently undergoing routine maintenance because of 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 check to fly the President to South Africa.

“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.”

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There are 10 aircraft in the Presidential Fleet, including six jets and four helicopters.

They are Boeing Business Jets (BBJ) 737, Gulfstream G550, Gulfstream G500, two Falcons 7X, HS 4000, two Agusta 139 and two Agusta 101.

A  source said no aircraft was in good condition to make a flight to South Africa.

The source explained that in the last one year, the President has been weighing options on how to reduce the aircraft in the presidential fleet from 10 to seven as part of cost-saving measures.

The three aircraft likely to be on the shelf are the 737 Boeing Business Jet (BBJ), Falcon and Embraer jets.

The BBJ was bought at about $43 million when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo held the fort as President.

But the Federal Government has been advised to replace the Nigerian Air Force 001.

The presidency has spent over N80 billion since 2016 on the Presidential Fleet, which is being managed by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).

The  breakdown of the past budgets on 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 N13billion in the budget and N12.7 billion Supplementary Budget.

The President is believed to be uncomfortable with the rising cost of maintenance of the fleet.

Tinubu has asked for the reduction of the fleet from 10 to seven in the first phase.

Although a new aircraft may be acquired, there were indications that the fleet may be  reduced by the President.

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Ex-President Muhammadu Buhari in October 2016 proposed to sell two aircraft – Dassault Falcon 7x executive jet and a Beechcraft Hawker 4000 business jet.

Although preferred bidders had 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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