There are signs that foreign creditors may seize presidential planes for accumulated debts.
According to Punch, the findings revealed that the Presidential Air Fleet (PAF) is indebted to various service providers.
Service providers had carried out upgrades to all 10 aircraft in the fleet to meet required airworthiness.
The PAF’s duty is to provide a safe airlift for the President, Vice President, their immediate families, and other senior government officials.
However, due to inadequate funding, some installations on the aircraft were again postponed to 2023.
PAF Commander, Deputy Air Marshal Abubakar Abdullahi, who asserted this in his defense presentation of the budget in the National Assembly, also complained that only N1.5bn were allocated for aircraft maintenance out of N4.5bn proposed.
The budget allocation to the PAF had increased by 121 percent in eight years.
The results indicate that the president Muhammadu Buhari since 2016 allocated N81.80bn for PAF maintenance and trips abroad.
The amount includes N62.47bn for the operation and maintenance of the PAF, N17.29bn for foreign and local travel, and N2.04bn for other related expenses.
The Presidency has maintained 10 aircraft since President Buhari took office in May 2015.
They are Boeing Business Jet (Boeing 737-800 or NAF 001), a Gulfstream G550, a Gulfstream V (Gulfstream 500), two Falcons 7X, a Hawker Siddeley 4000, two AgustaWestland AW139 helicopters and two AgustaWestland AW101 helicopters.
President Buhari had promised to reduce the size of the fleet as part of his pledge to reduce the cost of governance, but his administration reneged on the promise.
However, the National Security Advisor, Babagana Monguno delivered the two AgustaWestland AW101 VIP helicopters from the presidential fleet to the Air Force.
But addressing the House Intelligence and Homeland Security Committee during the budget defense session, the fleet commander explained that the average age of PAF aircraft was 11 years and in aviation, the cost of maintenance increases proportionately. with the age of the aircraft.
Based on fleet experience, Abdullahi explained that the maintenance cost of each aircraft ranged from $1.5 million to $4.5 million, depending on the level of maintenance owed.
Furthermore, the commander revealed that 2023, being an election year, would translate into more missions and requests for spare parts for the aircraft due to increased usage.
He also told lawmakers that the N250m approved for aviation fuel out of the requested N4bn were grossly inadequate; reminding them that aviation fuel, which was selling at an average cost of N390 per liter in January, was now dispatched at N915 per litre.
The fleet commander argued that the N8.072bn allocated for the fleet in the 2023 budget out of the proposed N15.5bn were inadequate to meet the needs of the fleet.
For this reason, he advocated an upward revision of the budget.
In the 2022 budget, the PAF proposed N19.4 billion, but only N12.4 billion was allocated, of which N11.130 million (98.07% of total approval) had been released as of October.
Abdullahi stated, “It is pertinent for this honorable committee to note that for successive years, the fleet has been severely underfunded, making it difficult to operate. According to fleet records, debts from prior years are generally carried over to the next budget year, and it’s becoming a tradition.
“Let me also say that most of these debts are owed to service providers abroad. Considering that more than 85 percent of the fleet’s expenses are currency transactions, the actual budget figure in dollar terms is further reduced.
“Currently the fleet is in debt to some of its service providers due to underfunding of budget allocations and the situation makes planning difficult. As stated above, we currently have to make some mandatory upgrades to our aircraft to meet airworthiness requirements.”
Highlighting upgrades to the aircraft that had been halted due to funding shortages, the Air Deputy Sheriff revealed that two of the fleet’s Falcon 7X aircraft with registration numbers 5N-FGU and 5N-FGV needed to be restored to upholstery to give the 11 year- old planes a new look.
Abdullah added, “They are projected for renewal at their next maintenance due in December 2022 and July 2023, respectively, which will cost $2.5 million each. In addition, the fleet’s aviation and personnel insurance premium for 2022, which amounts to $5.1 million, will also be renewed in February 2023. The fleet may not be able to finance them due to a shortfall in budget.
“The consequences of underfunding the fleet could have adverse effects on security operations. It can also lead to embarrassment of our nation in the international community, whether through the seizure of PAF aircraft at foreign airports or maintenance facilities. In addition, other states may deny PAF aircraft the necessary overflight permits for missions abroad.”
The senior air force officer noted that aircraft maintenance accounted for 46% of the overall budget proposal and was an integral part of overhead, adding that the shortfall in overhead greatly affected aircraft maintenance activities. aircraft in the fleet.
Of the releases made so far, 14 capital projects of 22 line items were said to be 100 percent complete, while the remaining eight are ongoing.
In its 2023 overhead cost estimates, the fleet plans to spend N1.5bn on aircraft maintenance; N256m on international trips; N200m on international transport and training; N96m in electricity; N160m in soda; N100m in maintenance of offices and residential buildings; N28m on local trips; and N25m on local training, among others.
The fleet commander revealed that some mandatory upgrades were done on credit based on the fleet’s long-standing relationships with maintenance companies, while others were carried over into the 2023 budget.
He stated, “This committee may wish to point out that the quality of aircraft maintenance performed is directly proportional to flight safety and its critical importance cannot be overemphasized.
“The fleet is attentive to the scarce economic resources in order to compete for national demands. Therefore, please be assured that this budget is based solely on needs. However, if the fleet must comply with its legal obligation, it will be necessary for the budget allocation to be revised upwards to comply with the PAF requirements.