Last week, the Federal Government put up for sale a jet in the Presidential fleet, Hawker 4000 aircraft with registration number, 5N-FGX/: RC 066. The business-size jet, which entered into service in December 2011, has capacity for nine passengers and three crew members.
The Hawker 4000, originally known as the Hawker Horizon, is a super-midsize business jet developed by Hawker Beechcraft, formerly Raytheon Aircraft Company. The luxury airplane costs $22.9 million (N8.7 billion), according to the manufacturers of the plane. The government has informed interested buyers of the luxury aircraft to inspect the Hawker 4000 aircraft at the Presidential Air Fleet’s Hangar located at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
The development is coming four years after the same government also put up two of its airplanes, a Falcon 7X and Hawker Sidley 4000 for sale.
Although the government did not disclose reasons for its latest decision, we perceive some sense of urgency in the proposed auction of the presidential jet. The advertisement published in some national dailies said, the aircraft “is ready for sale immediately.” It advised prospective buyers to submit a bank draft of $50,000 to the committee with the bid.
According to the publication, the money is refundable except for the winner of the bid. Interested buyers were requested to submit their closed bid to the Chairman, Committee for Sale of Aircraft, Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), in care of Special Services Office, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
It also said that all the bids should be quoted in United States dollars and all bids must be submitted within one week. President Muhammadu Buhari had, before he assumed office, expressed misgivings about having as many as 10 aircraft in the presidential fleet.
At that time, his grouse was that the Presidency did not need those aircraft, particularly when they were parked most of the time but maintained at huge cost to the taxpayers. He promised that if given the mandate, he would put some of the airplanes for sale to cut cost of governance.
In view of the poor state of the economy today, made worse by the dwindling oil revenue and other negative impacts of the global pandemic, the government, really, has no choice but to cut its coat according to its cloth.
For some time now, the government has been borrowing money from various sources to fund the huge deficits in the annual budgets, but it appears that even this has not addressed the revenue challenge sufficiently.
Therefore, the current resort to disposing of some strategic but luxurious assets is commendable. At least, the money to be realised from the proposed sale of the jet could be deployed to funding some critical road and rail projects.
If such money were to be borrowed from either local or external lending organisations, we would be worsening our debt profile. However, we must warn that this hurried sale of the presidential jet must be done very transparently and the proceeds ploughed into a particular infrastructure project for everyone to see.
The government must guard against creating any iota of doubt about its motives for this transaction in the minds of the citizenry. In the same vein, we urge President Buhari to go some steps further in the task of cutting down the cost of governance as there are more to what is guzzling our resources than meets the eyes.
There is need for a reduction in the number of vehicles in the convoys of public office holders, including the President, Vice President, Ministers, President of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives and others. The same should apply to Governors, Deputy Governors, Commissioners and members of the State Houses of Assembly.
These long and intimidating convoys of exotic cars are just part of the challenge. We need not remind Buhari of his much advertised spartan lifestyle and the contradiction of superintending over a system whose hallmark is the display of ostentation and extravagance.
That political office holders flaunt so much wealth and luxury in a country with the unenviable tag of the “poverty capital of the world” is not just insensitive, but absurd and ridiculous. We expect the President to champion the process of getting political office holders to prune down not just on the number of aides and personal assistants, but on jumbo salaries and allowances.
It is a common knowledge that often times, most of these aides are appointed with bogus titles and designations that have no correlation with work and productivity but for sheer political patronage.
If President Buhari truly wants to leave a legacy of a lean government, robust social infrastructure and efficient service delivery, we charge him to bite the bullet by implementing the recommendations of the Oronsaye Report which seeks to streamline Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the government to avoid unnecessary duplication of functions and eliminate waste of scarce resources.
We really think that giving away an aircraft is tokenism when juxtaposed with the several other options that are likely to produce more enduring results. What is worth doing is worth doing well.