The story of outrageous amount of money running into billions of naira being paid by the government of Nigeria to keep the presidential jet in London waiting for President Buhari who has been in London going to 60 days over his health problems went viral on social media just few days ago. Everyone is talking about it because of the president who gave an impression of being a modest man of the masses or is seen as such during the presidential campaign, a man who was alleged to have collected loan to buy his nomination form. Such extravagance of parking a plane in London and paying billions of naira in a country where the recession has made it difficult for the masses to even feed is damaging.
However, the presidency has come out with a response to all of this. The Presidency says it is constrained to decry criticisms, mostly on social media, on the retention in London of Nigeria’s Presidential Aircraft, NAF 001 as “mostly informed by lack of understanding of protocol around foreign trips by Heads of State all over the world”.
The spokesperson to President Muhammadu Buhari, Garba Shehu, said in a statement on Thursday that for reasons of protocol, national security, diplomacy and prestige, “no world leader who travels abroad and is left without plans for immediate return or possible evacuation”.
The statement said from an operational point of view, Nigeria’s Armed Forces as represented by the Nigeria Air Force are not to abandon their Commander-In-Chief in whichever circumstance he is. “This is a standard operating procedure”.
“We have also read claims about outrageous fees allegedly paid by Nigeria. The published amounts are totally untrue. Aircraft conveying heads of state all over the world usually enjoy waivers even where payments for parking are differentiated by aircraft categories.
“We have been assured that where the waiver is not granted, payment will not exceed £1,000, which is a quarter of the amount being peddled,” Mr. Shehu said.
He also said Mr. Buhari was not the first, and will not be the last, to have a presidential aircraft standing by for him.
“All past Heads of this country have had this privilege, and the part that surprises the most is that leaders who in the past travelled with three Nigerian aircraft did not suffer this trenchant criticism.
“We appeal to Nigerians to ignore opposition campaign aimed at derailing this administration’s big plans for the country,” Mr. Shehu claimed.
“We are a government that has saved this country an annual loss of two trillion Naira from fraudulent petroleum subsidy schemes by influential citizens and their children, and rid the public service of about 50,000 ghost workers.
“The Buhari administration certainly deserves a chance,” Mr. Shehu said.