THE Presidency is putting up spirited defence of its latest proposed addition of four new aircraft to the presidential fleet.
The kernel of the defence is that the planes are not solely for the use of the President. Other top government officials and politicians would use them.
What a defence for an expenditure that would drill N31.5 billion hole on the national purse?
In 2006 when a helicopter cost N2,561,991, 487, or 13.16 per cent of the State Houseâ€™s N19.457 billion budget, the defence celebrated the quality of the craft rather than bother about the quality of life of Nigerians. Earlier that year, the President had added a jet worth over N10 billion to his collection.
The huge cost of the jet and doubts over its quality landed two journalists in trouble with the State Security Service (SSS). They were later charged to court.
We agree the nation must ensure the safety of its President, but at what cost to the citizens who are barely eking out an existence from stifling economic conditions which have benefitted largely from the poor state of infrastructure?
It is beyond reasonable rationalisation to argue in favour of this expenditure when many sectors demanding urgent attention are left untouched by this administration. The UNDP Human Development Index report often ranks Nigeria among 30 countries with the lowest quality of life worldwide. Does this bother our President?
The expenditure on the presidential aircraft would have been more endurable if the President makes serious efforts â€” not just the words â€” to provide for the comfort, safety and security of ordinary Nigerians, whose President he is.
While he would be circling the country, ensconced in his latest acquisitions, millions of Nigerians cannot move round safely. The roads, which are touted to have cost billions of Naira to maintain, are in deplorable states, with many of them almost unmotorable.
Notable among these roads are major highways like the Benin-Ore Expressway, which has collapsed and extended travel times from hours to days. With the Christmas and New Year festivities round the corner, the annual fears that the Niger Bridge at Onitsha could finally collapse have commenced.
There are other roads all over the country whose poor states have created conducive settings for armed robbers to harass travellers stuck in the resulting traffic jams and gullies that have become fixed features of the roads.
With the procurement of more planes for the presidential fleet, the President and most key decisions makers, all maintained at public expense, would be further alienated from our people and their plight.
When the President and other top officials of government do not use these roads they lose opportunities of seeing what our people go through.
Nigeria would long have improved, if national problems were tackled with the urgency we purchase presidential aircraft. We are just wondering when the safety and welfare of the people count.