There is a renewed pressure on President Muhammadu Buhari to reduce the number of jets in the presidential fleet, from its present 10 to at most three.
There are indications that the country can save about $1.8 billion annually, from the running and maintenance costs of the fleet, if reduced.
The 2016 budget has N1.56 billion appropriated for only maintenance of the jets and a number of helicopters in use by the presidency, which is believed, will be increased in the 2017 budget proposal, given the fall in the value of naira.
A cross section of opinion leaders on how Nigeria can beat the economic recession, which calls for belt tightening, show they believe that there is a need to carry out real scaling down of costs of running governance, and reflecting same in the 2017 budget.
Among those who have expressed views on the matter is former president of the Nigerian Bar Association, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) who called for sincerity of purpose by all stakeholders in the country.
He argued that the president has the option of either outright sale of some of the fleet or converting them to passenger planes, which will help in boosting the status of the debt-ridden aviation industry.
Mr. David Briggs, a retired pilot with the defunct Nigeria Airways is of the opinion that Nigeria could make do with at most three jets for the presidency.
“In most developing countries, only two jets are run for the presidential office, why Nigeria is having such number of jets for one office beats any sense of reasoning, more so now that the country cannot afford such luxury.
“In most developed economies, including Germany and United Kingdom, the executive has one jet dedicated to it and most times, their leaders use the commercial planes for their trips.”
A senior lecturer with the Lagos University, Dr. Robert Ukaeje, said the government’s sincerity over the needed sacrifice for the recovery of the economy would be seen from how it is able to handle the popular call for the reduction of the presidential fleet.
He added that the amount to be realised from the sale of some of the jets could be channeled to the critical arm of the economy: job creation.
By Emma Eke…..
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