Claims that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration has spent a mind-boggling sum of N6 billion on the maintenance of aircraft in the Presidential Air Fleet (PAF) in the last six months has been refuted by the Presidency.
The PAF has the single largest number of aircraft in its inventory coming second to only Arik Air.
Following his swearing-in on May 29, 2015 many Nigerians had called on President Buhari to offload some of the aircraft comprising mostly of luxurious private jets to reduce the cost of governance.
Reacting to the reports, the Presidency said that only N2.3 billion had been and went ahead to give the number of aircraft in the PAF as 10, not 14, contrary to the numbers making the rounds.
Senior Special Adviser to the President (Media), Garba Shehu, who made the rebuttal in a statement yesterday, lamented that President Buhari has had to be distracted by some “fictional report”, which he had “caused the government a lot of negative reviews especially in the online media”.
According to the statement, “The government is focused on solving the many major issues our country faces in the areas of the economy, corruption and security. Yet almost every week, the Presidency has to also deal with the distractions which do nothing but distract from the task of government”.
Referring to documents he had requested from the Operational Office of the Presidential Air Fleet after his attention was drawn to the speculative report, Malam Shehu pointed out that the sum of N2.3 billion was released to the PAF by the office of the Accountant General of the Federation between May and November 2015.
“This includes releases for personnel cost, overhead and capital expenditure out of the sum of N5,190,381,386.00 appropriated for PAF on the 2015 budget.
“The documents also showed that the sum of N2,127,103,086.66 had so far been expended, leaving a balance of N172,568,912.34 from the amount released.
“However, the sum of N149,062,791.12 was transferred from the PAF’s operation account to the Treasury Single Account, following the President’s recent directive”, he said.
The statement added “that the sum of N23,801,122.17 remains unutilized out of the funds so far released. During the period 31 May 2015 till date, the Fleet expended the sum of N1,358,910,962.75 to settle outstanding liabilities carried over from last year till May 2015. Furthermore, the sum of N500 million was refunded to the office of the National Security Adviser, NSA for financial support rendered to the Fleet prior to release of funds from the OAGF.
“Thus, the Fleet expended the sum of N449,081,037.25 within the last months comprising N98,500,218.00 for operations, N165,373,176.91 on training and N85,500,116.75 on personnel medicals and overhead. Additionally, the sum of N99,715,493.51 was expended on aircraft maintenance, spares, and subscription services required for operations”.
The presidential spokesman said any of the documents containing the amounts spent on maintaining the PAF could have been readily made available had the newspaper which carried the report reached out to him or to any one of his colleagues.
“The damage to the image of government and the good management of the Presidential Air Fleet could have been avoided”, he added.
The statement gave the models, number and types of aircraft in the Presidential Air Fleet as follows: Boeing 737 plane (1), G550 Gulfstream Jet (1), G500 Gulfstream (1), Falcon 7X Jets (2), HS 4000 Hawker Siddeley Jet (1), Augusta 139 Helicopter (2) and Augusta 101 heliocper (2).