Monday, October 10, 2016

Nigeria selling two presidential jets

President Muhammadu Buhari, after months of being questioned about its size, is finally pruning Nigeria’s presidential air fleet which includes several jets and helicopters. While it is unclear how many aircraft the fleet currently holds (reports suggest there are 10), the president has put two of the jets—a Dassault Falcon 7x executive jet and a Beechcraft Hawker 4000—up for sale.

The presidency is branding the sale as part of efforts to “cut waste” in government spending but, given Nigeria’s difficult times (its first recession in decades, a spiraling currency and falling oil exports), Nigerians will likely see the move more as a desperate attempt to raise foreign exchange (interested buyers will be quoted in dollars) amid a biting shortage.

BudgIT, an advocate for transparency in Nigerian government, has suggested that the government currently spends more on maintaining the presidential fleet than is allocated to any of the federal universities.

It could be argued the president’s office has enough planes to start a national carrier which would be ironic given reports president Buhari has asked the ministry of aviation look into restarting a national carrier.

Typically, cost-cutting moves by government are lauded in Nigeria but this has been met with a lukewarm reception as many see the move as being several months late. Buhari’s presidential campaign, hinged on a strong anti-corruption message and championing his austere lifestyle, led many Nigerians to hope that the government’s excesses would be quickly reduced under his administration. But much of that enthusiasm has slowly sipped away. Nigeria’s senate, the poster-child of the high cost of government in Nigeria, has so far refused to cut its annual $364 million budget despite ranking among the world’s best paid lawmakers.

Under Buhari, the cost of running the presidential state house has also gone up, with millions budgeted for line items repeated from last year, such as the “installation of electrical lighting and fittings.”

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