From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Presidency, yesterday, described as untrue, claims that the Presidential Aircraft, NAF 001, parked in a London hanger was costing the nation a daily parking fee of £4,000.
It said the amount was outrageous and allegations untrue, adding that Aircraft conveying heads of state all over the world usually enjoy waivers even where payments for parking were 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,” Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said in a statement.
The jet is parked in a London facility while President Muhammadu Buhari undergoes treatment in an undisclosed hospital in the UK.
He described those behind the criticisms over the parking of the aircraft in the Uk, as lacking understanding of protocol of trips by heads of states all over the world.
He also said it was against protocol to leave the president on a foreign trip without planes for immediate return or evacuation.
A post by a Facebook user Retty Susie on Wednesday drew attention to the Nigerian presidential aircraft in London.
“Today, it would be 50 days it has stayed idle and if you multiply that by N400/1pounds for 50 days it will amount to N80,000,000 doing nothing but waiting for the president to get well. This is not a government but a mistake Why not return the aircraft to Nigeria till he is ready to return. If the plane is here where is the crew?”
Shehu, however, insisted that NAF 001 was at the service of the president.
The statement read: “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 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 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.”