As part of the federal government’s cost measures, President Muhammadu Buhari has directed that nine of the VIP transport aircraft under the presidential fleet should be sold.
Industry sources informed THISDAY that the presidential fleet, which are registered as Nigerian Air Force aircraft, is one of the largest in Africa and the third largest in Nigeria after Arik Air and Aero-contractors.
According to an aviation source, who is aware of the directive to sell the aircraft, the presidency has a number of serviceable and non-serviceable aircraft that need to be disposed of in order to reduce the amount spent by the federal government for aircraft maintenance annually.
“Nine, which still have market value, are to be sold immediately to reduce maintenance costs,” he said.
For years, the federal government has spent over N12 billion annually for the maintenance of the presidential fleet. Although information on the exact size of the fleet is treated as classified information, the fleet, according to aviation sources, is believed to comprise about 16 aircraft, chief of which is the Boeing 738 BBJ, NAF 001 or Eagle One, used by the president for his travels. With its luxury configuration comprising a master bedroom, washrooms and showers, a conference and dinning area, and a living area, the plane seats 25 to 50 passengers and would cost at least $100 million to replace today. Eagle One can spend 12 hours in the air, covering 11,489 kilomtres or 6,200 nautical miles.
In addition to the Boeing 733 reserved for the president, the fleet boasts two Gulfstream 550 jets. The Gulfstream 550 can seat eight to 18 passengers, depending on the configuration, and has a cruiser range of 12,501 kilometres or 6,750 nautical miles. A new luxury Gulfstream 550 would cost an estimated $53.5 million.
According to Wikipedia, other planes in the Nigerian Air Force VIP transport fleet include two Dassault Falcon 7X jets, one Hawker Siddeley 125-800 and one Cessna 550 Citation II. Information from a Nigerian web portal and Nigerian Air Force sources further revealed that the fleet also boasts two Dassault Falcon 900 jets, a Gulfstream IVSP, a Gulfstream V, a Dornier Do 228, which can carry 19 passengers, one Beechcraft King Air B200, and three AugustaWestland AW139 helicopters.
Sources said each of the two Dassault Falcon 7X jets were purchased for $51.1 million in 2010 while the Gulfstream 550 cost $53.3 million.
Aviation experts also put the average price of the Falcon 900 at $35 million; Gulfstream IVSP at $40 million; Gulfstream V at $45 million; Cessna Citation at $7 million; and the Hawker Siddeley at $15 million.
THISDAY also discovered that though all the aircraft are under the presidential fleet, about eight of the planes are reserved strictly for the president.
These are the Boeing 737, the two Gulfstream 550 jets, the Gulfstream V jet, two Falcon 7X planes, the Hawker Siddeley aircraft and one AugustaWestland chopper.
Others are reserved for executive airlift. Aircraft used for this function include the two Falcon 900 planes, the Dornier, the Cessna Citation, the Beechracft King Air, and two AugustaWestland choppers.
Aircraft reserved for executive airlift are used by the Vice-President, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and could be used to convey African heads of states visiting or departing Nigeria.