|Culled form The Guardian Tuesday February
over bid for presidential jet
THE uproar over plans to buy a new presidential
jet may have reached another height even within the government with the latest
concern being with the status of the particular aircraft to be purchased and the
Questions are being raised on the propriety of choosing the particular one
being targeted and whether the $80 million, if it must be used on a presidential
jet, could not fetch a better or newer model.
According to sources, the government has its eyes on a 1999 BBJ-1 (Boeing
Business Jet) built in 1999.
Its serial number is said to be 29272 and Registration Number is N7378P. It
was initially sold directly to a company called Raytheon Systems Corporation in
1999 which ordered it for Netjet, a group that specialises in corporate jets.
The aircraft is currently being marketed by Hallmark Aviation Limited based
in Columbia, Maryland, USA.
A company, known as Uniglobal Aviation, is said to be involved in the sale to
Nigeria. The asking price is between $32.8 million and $35 million. But the crux
is that the aircraft is almost out of warranty since it has done very little
flying since it was bought in 1999. In fact, information on the aircraft
obtained by The Guardian shows that it has flown only 22 hours in 19
cycles. It is labelled "Green," not painted and has no interior. Having been on
the ground for about six years, its landing gear, which has a 10-year limit,
sources claim, may have to go for total re-fit. Besides, there is said to be
serious corrosion on its body. All these and other repairs, according to the
calculations of those in charge of the procurement, would gulp another $45
million to bring the total cost to $80 million. A figure many say could be used
to buy a better newer aircraft with a tidy balance still left.
Meanwhile, a committee given the responsibility to buy it is either planning
an inspection or may have inspected the aircraft. The buying party, The
Guardian learnt, with the $80 million or N10 billion to spend, is believed
to have already sourced a contractor in Europe to carry out refurbishment and
refitting for between $15 million $18 million, including between $4 million-$6.5
million for crew training and another unspecified amount for spares and
Causing a big disquiet in government also are some of the justifications for
the purchase of a new aircraft. According to the spokespersons of the
Presidency, the aircraft is for Nigeria and not for the president and that they
would trade in three of the existing ones thus: Hawker Sideley 1000 series -
$4.7 million; GulfStream II - $1 million and Boeing 727 - $12.3 million,
totalling $18 million.
Sources however claim that even these ones, it would seem, are being sold at
almost give-away prices, the Boeing 727 especially.
According to a source, about $9 million was used to re-engine the aircraft
recently. Hence, the question: why would the country sell it for N12.3 million
considering the amount spent on the upgrading? "Or was the aircraft worth only
$3 million before upgrading?" a source queried.
Also, aviation sources are saying that if Nigeria must buy a jet, BBJ-1 came
in 1998 but already, there is BBJ-2 (2003) which goes for about $65 million with
the latest technology and fresh warranty.
"Why then buy a jet for $35 million and seek to spend up to $45 million to
put it in the air?"
It would be recalled that when the request for a new presidential jet was
presented to the National Assembly, as part of the items in the 2004 budget,
legislators kicked against it.
Afterwards, President Olusegun Obasanjo informed the nation that the request
was not supposed to be in the budget speech and asked that he had intended to
merely inform the House of request and not make it part of the budget.
One of his aides, Captain Usman Iyal, subsequently said the staffers in the
Presidency were the ones who inserted the clause on jet in the budget speech
leading Nigerians to wonder if the quest for the Presidential jet was being
carried out more by the Presidential staff than the President himself.
Meanwhile, it is not known if the members of the committee saddled with the
task of procuring the aircraft had made any enquiries on BBJ-1 No. N7378P from
Boeing, the manufacturer or if the Nigerian Aviation Ministry knows anything
about the purchase bid. The Guardian however learnt that the due process
office in the Presidency may have begun seeking answers to the many questions
over the bid.