Amid economic hardship, concerns rise over costs of maintaining presidential jet

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Amidst the unbearable economic hardship confronting Nigeria and its citizens, financial concerns are being raised over the humongous cost of public funds being spent to maintain the Pesidential aircraft,Airforce 001 being used by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

The 737 Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) acquired  during the regime  of former President Olusegun Obasanjo at a cost of $43m, according to information obtained, has become a source of financial liability to the country due to old age.

The continuous maintenance of the 22 year old aircraft according to sources has become a guzzler of public funds running to several millions of dollars at a time the cost of governance is facing critical challenges.

The BBJ manufactured by the aircraft manufacturing company, Boeing which commenced production in 1998 and initially cost $36 million for the unfinished aircraft, now sells for $41 million for used and $71 million for a brand new aircraft.

Towards the end of the tenure of former President Muhammadu Buhari, the same aircraft was taken out for a detailed maintenance in preparation for the inauguration of President Tinubu.

Besides the comprehensive maintenance carried out on the aircraft before Tinubu’s inauguration, information gathered has also revealed that the same aircraft has again been sent out for additional rounds of scheduled and non-scheduled maintenance at a huge cost of dollars.

While the huge cost of maintaining the presidential jet in dollars at a time the country is lamenting the near total collapse of the naira at the expense of the dollar, stakeholders are divided on how to save the country from unnecessary spendings on the maintenance of the plane.

A top official who is conversant with the routine maintenance of the presidential fleet revealed how between the maintenance and purchase of spare parts for the aircraft has been sucking up huge amounts of taxpayers money.

The huge dollars being regularly squandered on the aircraft was said to have been economically unreasonable that the erstwhile Presidential Air Fleet commander, AVM A.A Yaro recommended for the demobilisation of the said aircraft.

A source who is familiar with the operation of the presidential fleet told the Nigerian Tribune that the aircraft had amassed over $5 million in maintenance bills, an amount which constituted nearly half of the over $10 million liabilities inherited at the presidential fleet.

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Amidst the concerns, stakeholders however differed on the notion that the exorbitant amount the maintenance of the aircraft is consuming may be as a result of advanced age.

While it is being argued that its is not the age of an aircraft that determines its safety and efficiency but rather its regular maintenance, it is also being said that the older an aircraft becomes, the more expensive it becomes to maintain in a dollar based sector.

According to a source: “Due to the age of the aircraft, maintenance cost has increased in recent times and the amount of money spent on maintenance is huge. I am wondering how long it would take to continue to spend this much on maintenance when it could have been disposed of and a new one purchased.”

Commenting on the development, a former military commandant at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Group Captain John Ojikutu,retired, described Nigerians as people who like to spend even when there is no need for the spending.

Ojikutu who said an aircraft age is better judged by number of hours and not necessarily by years, declared: “So long as the manufacturer is still producing the spares and the technical manpower are available and certified by the responsible civil aviation activities, the aircraft is as good as those before it that are still flying. How old is the aircraft compared to those in the Arik fleet that were bought abou the same period? Look well and listen well too, some people are prompting from outside and waiting for the auction from their partners inside the government. The next thing will be to see the rejected aircraft flying commercial services in the country approved by the NCAA. Keep your eyes opened and your ears to the ground.

“Most have forgotten that it took OBJ almost two years to decide on the Presidential Fleet and within this period, he was travelling on the Nigeria Airways and foreign airlines to countries outside Nigeria. The aircraft may be old but not outside its operating hours and period if its Periodic Maintenance Programmes are observed from the time of its purchase.”

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For a renowned aircraft engineer who is presently the General Secretary, Society of Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineers (SLAMEN), Mr. Sheri Kyari, purchasing a new aircraft for Mr President would be better to reduce the maintenance cost.

His words: “It is better for the government to buy a new one. How much is a brand new aircraft? They should be able to get something much better with Boeing. For me, Boeing is still the way to go.”

Another aircraft engineer who spoke under anonymity remarked: “Even the US President aircraft is older than our President’s. Is the US President not flying a Boeing 747? That aircraft cannot be less than 30 years or more. You can actually put a brand new engine on an aircraft and it becomes new.

“Again, we must acknowledge that the President is an important personality. So also you cannot micromanage things for him, he deserves something better, but when we know the history and maintenance record of the aircraft, we can decide to say okay, ‘this is what we should According to a source: “Due to the age of the aircraft, maintenance cost has increased in recent times and the amount of money spent on maintenance is huge. I am wondering how long it would take to continue to spend this much on maintenance when it could have been disposed of and a new one purchased.”Commenting on the development, a former military commandant at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Group Captain John Ojikutu,retired, described Nigerians as people who like to spend even when there is no need for the spending.

Ojikutu who said an aircraft age is better judged by number of hours and not necessarily by years, declared: “So long as the manufacturer is still producing the spares and the technical manpower are available and certified by the responsible civil aviation activities, the aircraft is as good as those before it that are still flying. How old is the aircraft compared to those in the Arik fleet that were bought abou the same period? Look well and listen well too, some people are prompting from outside and waiting for the auction from their partners inside the government. The next thing will be to see the rejected aircraft flying commercial services in the country approved by the NCAA. Keep your eyes opened and your ears to the ground.

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“Most have forgotten that it took OBJ almost two years to decide on the Presidential Fleet and within this period, he was travelling on the Nigeria Airways and foreign airlines to countries outside Nigeria. The aircraft may be old but not outside its operating hours and period if its Periodic Maintenance Programmes are observed from the time of its purchase.”

For a renowned aircraft engineer who is presently the General Secretary, Society of Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineers (SLAMEN), Mr. Sheri Kyari, purchasing a new aircraft  for Mr President would be better to reduce the maintenance cost.

His words: “It is better for the government to buy a new one. How much is a brand new aircraft? They should be able to get something much better with Boeing. For me, Boeing is still the way to go.”

Another aircraft engineer who spoke under anonymity remarked: “Even the US President aircraft is older than our President’s. Is the US President not flying a Boeing 747? That aircraft cannot be less than 30 years or more. You can actually put a brand new engine on an aircraft and it becomes new.

“Again, we must acknowledge that the President is an important personality. So also you cannot micromanage things for him, he deserves something better, but when we know the history and maintenance record of the aircraft, we can decide to say okay, ‘this is what we should do.’

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