It’s been over 50 days since President Buhari left for London for a “follow-up medical consultation,” leaving Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo in his stead. So far, Osinbajo has not done such a bad job as acting president, and word on the street is that Bubu is not missed. But it only makes sense that Nigerians should know the state of health of the man they elected into power, and when he will be back to take the reins, hence the occasional demand for accountability from the government.
However, since the government has made a conscious decision to leave Nigerians in the dark, Nigerians have resorted to seeking out answers on their own. Sometime last week, there were speculations on the accruing cost of the presidential jet parked at London’s airport. The Facebook post made by a certain Akande Akin Sanyaolu regarding the idle presidential jet went viral provoking mixed reactions of anger and doubt. Is the presidential jet actually costing the nation 4000 pounds daily?
In a bid to quell the widespread indignation, the presidency in the person of Garba Shehu, the Senior Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, was forced to reply with a statement disputing the claims of Mr. Sanyaolu.
“The Presidency is constrained to decry criticisms, mostly on social media, on the retention in London of the Presidential Aircraft, NAF 001 as mostly informed by a lack of understanding of protocol around foreign trips by Heads of State all over the world. It is important to state that for reasons of protocol, national security, diplomacy and prestige, there is no world leader who travels abroad and is left without plans for immediate return or possible evacuation.
From an operational point of view, this country’s Armed Forces as represented by the Nigeria Air Force are not to abandon their Commander-In-Chief in whichever circumstance he is. This is a standard operating procedure.
We have also read claims about outrageous fees allegedly paid by Nigeria. The published amounts are totally untrue. Aircraft conveying heads of state all over the world usually enjoy waivers even where payments for parking are differentiated by aircraft categories. We have been assured that where the waiver is not granted, payment will not exceed £1,000, which is a quarter of the amount being peddled.
For the avoidance of doubt, this President is not the first to have a presidential aircraft standing by for him, as he will certainly not be the last. All past Heads of this country have had this privilege, and the part that surprises the most is that leaders who in the past travelled with three Nigerian aircraft did not suffer this trenchant criticism.
We appeal to Nigerians to ignore opposition campaign aimed at derailing this administration’s big plans for the country. This is a government that is constructing the Second Niger Bridge, the Mambila Power Plant, the East-West and the North-South standard gauge railway lines. We are a government that has saved this country an annual loss of two trillion Naira from fraudulent petroleum subsidy schemes by influential citizens and their children and rid the public service of about 50,000 ghost workers. The Buhari administration certainly deserves a chance.”
It is rather difficult to predict the kind of response the presidency was hoping to get after releasing a statement, but ironically, it did nothing to quell the indignation felt by Nigerians. The parked jet doesn’t cost as much as 4000 pounds per day, but it costs something. 1000 pounds is equivalent to over N400, 000, multiplied by the number of days the president has been in the UK, the result is well over 21 million Naira. Apparently, the presidency does not consider over 21 million a significant sum of money.
However, on the heels of the released statement was yet another speculation of about 90 presidential aides and crew members being lodged at the Hilton Paddington Hotel, with a daily bill of 400 pounds. As expected, the public is not taking this well. And while it is expected for some people to question the validity of this speculation, it is important to note that there is no smoke without fire.