Indications have emerged that the Federal Government may soon embark on the sale of aircraft owned by its ministries, departments and agencies.
The affected aircraft Sunday Punch learnt are those no longer in use by the MDAs due to old age or lack of fund and maintenance.
A national newspaper (not The PUNCH) had reported on Friday that President Muhammadu Buhari had ordered the sale of nine aircraft in the Presidential Air Fleet but this was denied by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr. Garba Shehu.
However, findings by our correspondent on Saturday showed that the President had received a report, detailing the total number of aircraft in the PAF, and the number and types of aircraft owned by ministries, departments and agencies.
As of press time on Saturday, it was not clear if President Buhari had agreed with the report or given approval for the sale of some aircraft in the PAF and those owned by the MDAs.
Sources in the Presidency, who are aware of the content of the report, however told our correspondent that the report listed a total of 13 aircraft under the PAF.
These include the nine aircraft that are being used by the President and four others that are categorised under the Executive Airlift.
The Executive Airlift craft are used for carrying top government officials like the Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Heads of State of other countries and other top government officials who may be on special national assignments.
The source listed the nine aircraft that are being used by the President as Boeing Business Jet 737 (Air Force 001, Gulfstream 550 (bought in 2011), two Falcon 7X planes (bought in 2012), Hawker Sidlley 4000 (bought in 2011), Gulfstream V, two Augusta 139 helicopter, and one Augusta 101 helicopter.
The four aircraft used for Executive Airlift are Falcon 900, Dornier 229 King D200, and Cessna Citation jet.
It was learnt from Presidency sources that the report also listed over 25 aircraft as belonging to MDAs out of which a significant number must be sold.
These include Nigeria Customs Service, which has four aircraft namely two Bell helicopters, one Dornier 228 and one Cessna Citation private jet; the Nigerian Police Force, which has 10 helicopters and one Cessna Sovereign private jet; and the Nigeria Immigration Service, which has six aircraft that are being used for border patrol.
Others are the National Emergency Management Agency, which has four helicopters and one Cessna Encor private jet; the Ministry of Aviation, which has a Hawker Siddley calibration jet that is not being used; and the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria which has six German-made helicopters that are no longer serviceable.
The source said, “The report before the President recommended that all these aircraft numbering over 25 should be drastically reduced by selling most of them. Most of them are avenues for corruption, wastage and leakages in the system.
“Some of the MDAs are not running all the aircraft and there are budgetary provisions that are being made for their maintenance and running on yearly basis. There are no pilots flying some of the helicopters. Since most of them are not being maintained and run, the report said they should be sold and the money put in the treasury. Only a few of the aircraft will be retained. Apart from the helicopters that are used for operations, some of the MDAs have ultra-modern and expensive private jets. The report is querying what they are using them for.”
As for the 13 aircraft in the PAF, it is still unclear if any or some of them will be sold.
But aviation experts believe the size of the PAF, which is one of the largest in Africa and the second largest airline.
The General Secretary, Aviation Round Table, an industry pressure group, Group Captain John Ojikutu, said, he was not expecting anything less from the President because the actions were long overdue.
According to him, the Buhari administration needs to do more.
He said, “I don’t expect anything less from President Muhammadu Buhari if it is true. We know very well that we have been very wasteful as a country. We have also been wasteful in the way individuals and MDAs acquire private aircraft that they don’t use.
“In the United Kingdom, the Prime Minister David Cameron charters aircraft from the British Airways, while the Pope travels by Alitalia Air. We have lots of recklessness in this part of the world. It is only in Africa you see these things. There are lots of things we need to attend to.”
A former Assistant General Secretary, Airline Operators of Nigeria, Mr. Muhammed Tukur, also said the aircraft could be sold to both airline operators and private individuals who could use them for commercial purposes.
He argued that this could generate more revenue and create jobs.