Nigerian government set to buy new presidential aircraft, puts three up for sale

The federal government under President Bola Ahmed has decided to sell three ageing presidential aircraft to gather funds to purchase a new one.

Shehu Buba Umar, chairman of the senate committee on national security and intelligence, also supported the recommendation by the lower chamber’s committee.

Selling off the three aircraft would cut by half the number of jets in the presidential air fleet.

The fleet currently consists of six airplanes and four helicopters.

The current fleet, maintained by the presidential air fleet (PAF), an arm of the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), include Boeing 737 Boeing Business Jet (BBJ), a Gulfstream G550, a Gulfstream GV, two Falcon 7x and one Challenger CL605.

Insiders, however, said at least half of the entire fleet is made up of unserviceable or failing aircraft, necessitating the need to dispose those considered to be of greater burden to the fleet.

The jets pencilled down for sale, TheCable understands, are a Boeing 737 Boeing Business Jet (BBJ), which is the president’s designated aircraft, one Gulfstream and a Falcon 7x.

The federal government has appointed a frontline US-based airline marketer, JetHQ, as the broker for the sale of the three aircraft, TheCable further learnt.

An exclusive marketing agreement had been signed between the Nigerian government and the company giving the firm permission to value the three aircraft and subsequently market them.

Insiders say proceeds from the sale would go into procuring a new jet for the fleet, for which a search is ongoing.

“We saw the report and recommendation by the lawmakers. But the truth of the matter is that we can not afford to buy two aircraft at a go, even though we are selling off others. The approval now is to find one whose cost is not too much that we can augment with what we raise from this sale,” a senior official, who is familiar with the management of the fleet, said.

The marketing firm has already submitted three bids from buyers to the Office of the National Security Adviser for consideration.

“Yes, we have received two offers for the BBJ and one for the Falcon X. But the NSA insisted that we must press for a better deal instead of rushing to have a bad deal for the government,” an PAF official involved with the process said on condition of anonymity.

Zakari Mijinyawa, a spokesman for the NSA, confirmed the ongoing disposal process but gave no further details.

The debate about the condition of the presidential air fleet has been on the front burner in recent times, with safety concerns raised about the condition of the aircraft transporting Nigerian leaders.

The president’s BBJ aircraft has been away on maintenance since March, making him fall back on other aircraft in the fleet.

However, in April, President Bola Tinubu resorted to a commercial aircraft on his way to the World Economic Forum in Riyadh after the aircraft he travelled with to Netherlands developed a fault.

Around the same time, Vice-President Kashim Shettima was pictured arriving Ogun state in a chartered aircraft.

In early May, Shettima had to abort his trip to the United States mid-air after the aircraft transporting him developed an engine fault.

For his latest trip to South Africa, Tinubu also had to make use of a private airplane, a development some diplomatic experts said would give bad optics for Nigeria in the global scene.

While federal lawmakers and a section of Nigerians endorse purchasing new aircraft to address the concerns, others believe that it would be insensitive at a time of economic hardship.

But lawmakers say the safety of all citizens, including that of the president and other government officials, should be of utmost concern to all Nigerians.