IT is not a co-incidence that government chose two weeks after an incident in Kampala at the African Union summit to announce purchase of three additional aircraft for the presidential fleet.

The President’s main travelling craft developed engine troubles that kept him some hours longer in Uganda .

The Federal Government has approved the three aircraft, costing about N21 billion. The aircraft involved in the Kampala incident would not be replaced.

Government spokespeople said the purchase was initiated in November 2009. They are blaming late President Umaru Yar’Adua for that bit but the definite purchasing agreements were signed only last May after Yar’Adua was gone.

If the government had been in touch with the public, it could have deferred the purchases, especially at a time of great economic pains, and with the country’s finances in bad shape.

Rather government expects plaudits for buying three instead of four aircraft, and for its acclaimed deft negotiations that reduced the cost from N31.5 billion to N21 billion.

When the deal commenced, the presidential fleet had eight aircraft. Four were sold to make room for the new acquisitions. The new planes will raise the number of the presidential fleet to seven aircraft.

Defences of the deal are weak, unconscionable and make the bold point that it is wasteful. Ima Niboro, presidential spokesman said aircraft 18 years and above would be phased out to save maintenance costs.

More instructive is that the planes are not for the President’s use. “I have to clarify also that these aircraft are not going to be used by the President but what is happening basically is that they are being operated as a fleet and would be deployed appropriately to serve other purposes, especially serving principal officers of the Federal Government, including, as the case may be, the Senate president and the speaker of the House of Representatives,” Niboro said.

The idea must be to ensure there are enough aircraft in the fleet that anyone who wants a plane would get one. With the conditions of the roads, the authorities know the only way they can get around is to fly over the problems.

They use these aircraft for local as well as international piling unnecessary expenses on fuel, crew, parking charges and maintenance.

It is also important to keep ordinary Nigerians in their places. Our chief servants who must be shielded from the indignity of contacts with ordinary people.

How do government officials feel about so much luxury for themselves when the people do not have basic necessities? We can buy three aircraft at once yet Nigeria is borrowing $4 billion.

The Americans can afford more aircraft for their President, but they simply maintain Air Force One, they do not throw it away because of age. In Britain, the Prime Minister travels with the national airline. Agreed we no longer have a national airline, but we can be prudent.

Government officials should learn to minimise their inclinations to self_serving expenditure. Unless modesty is applied, all the country’s resources would be wasted in supporting the wasteful lifestyles of our leaders.

Some argue that N21 billion was not a lot of money to spend on the safety of the President. However, it has been confirmed that more planes would be unnecessary, if everyone was not angling for a plane from the presidential fleet.

With this attitude and the unrelenting proclivity to sleaze in government, the road to more poverty is certainly well paved.


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