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Presidential jet gulps billions in maintenance

There is a growing concern over the huge maintenance cost of Nigeria’s presidential aircraft, Air Force 001, which serves President Bola Ahmed Tinubu as it…

There is a growing concern over the huge maintenance cost of Nigeria’s presidential aircraft, Air Force 001, which serves President Bola Ahmed Tinubu as it gulps billions of naira.

A senior official familiar with the maintenance of the presidential fleet told Daily Trust that between the routine maintenance and purchase of parts, the aircraft had been guzzling huge amounts of money.

He said it was not a new trend as that it had been going on for a while, making the erstwhile Presidential Air Fleet Commandeer, AVM AA Yaro, to recommend that it should be demobilised.

The Air Force 001 is a 737 Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) bought during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo at the cost of $43m.

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Boeing began the production of the BBJ in 1998, and it initially cost $36m for the unfinished aircraft. It now sells for $41m for a used one and $71m for a brand new aircraft.

While the age of an aircraft does not matter in terms of its performance, our correspondent reports that the maintenance cost increases unlike newer and more modern aircraft.

It would be recalled that a month to the expiration of the tenure of former President Muhammadu Buhari, the aircraft was sent for a comprehensive maintenance ahead of the inauguration of Tinubu’s government.

But since Tinubu took over and inherited the aircraft, it has been sent for other rounds of scheduled and non-scheduled maintenance.

Sources privy to the operation of the presidential fleet confirmed that the aircraft had amassed over $5m in maintenance bills, constituting nearly half of the over $10m liabilities inherited at the presidential fleet.

A source said, “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.”

The General Secretary, Society of Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineers (SLAMEN), Sheri Kyari, advised that purchasing a new one would be better to reduce the maintenance cost.

Kyari said, “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 from Boeing. For me, Boeing is still the way to go.”

Findings by our correspondent revealed that neighbouring countries have fairly newer aircraft compared to Nigeria. For instance, Ivory Coast, apart from having two Gulfstream aircraft in the presidential fleet, also operate A319 and A320 for longer trips. Senegal uses A320Neo and A319 in addition to other smaller jets.

For most African countries, the Airbus and BBJ have become the choice aircraft used for presidential movement with the capacity to convey at least 30 passengers in a VIP cabin.

An aircraft engineer who did not want his name in print said, “Even the US president’s aircraft is older than our president’s. Is the US president not flying a 747? That aircraft cannot be less than 30. 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, 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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