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Presidential jet: Reps accuse FG of blackmail

Members during plenary at the floor of the Nigeria House of Representatives

Some members of the House of Representatives have alleged that the Presidency is using the faulty presidential jet to blackmail the National Assembly to approve the purchase of a new aircraft for President Goodluck Jonathan.

The presidential jet – Nigerian Air Force 001(5N-FGT) that took the President to the Peoples Democratic Party’s rally in Minna, the Niger State capital, had developed a technical fault on Saturday thus forcing Jonathan to abandon it.

Before this development, Jonathan had proposed in the 2014 budget he sent to the National Assembly to add one more plane to the presidential fleet, which already had 10 aircraft.

The request, which was contained in the budget, had generated controversy earlier in the year.

However, some opposition party members claimed that the episode might have been a move to “arm twist” the National Assembly to approve the request to buy a new jet.

One of the lawmakers and Chairman, House Committee on Justice, Mr. Ali Ahmad, argued that it “might be a ploy to blackmail the National Assembly.”

Ahmad, who is a member of the  All Progressives Congress, also said he thanked God that there was no disaster resulting from the fault “else, they would have blamed it on the APC.”

He said, “The request for a new jet may be granted but not with the votes of some us.

“A presidential jet is not a priority. We are not setting our priorities right.

“The UK Prime Minister flies in commercial jets when he travels.

“In Nigeria, the presidential fleet has 10 aircraft. Does that suggest that we are a country setting our priorities right?”

On his part, the Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, declined to comment on the issue.

Mohammed told The PUNCH that his comments could be “misinterpreted to mean the position of the House.”

Speaking on the issue, Deputy House Majority Leader, Mr. Leo Ogor, said the House was not in a position to know why the aircraft developed the fault.

Ogor also noted that it would be hasty to say whether the House would approve a request to buy a new plane or not, in the light of the latest development.

He explained that the 2014 budget was already undergoing scrutiny before various House committees.

Ogor added, “First, let us thank God that the President is well. We glorify God.

“Anything that runs on an engine can develop fault, even a brand new engine. I didn’t consider it a very serious issue.

“I have not seen in the budget where there is a sub-head for a new aircraft.

“But, if there is, we have to wait for the report of the Committees on Special Duties/Governmental Affairs working on the budget.

“If they look at the request and their finding is that he needs another jet, the report will say so.

“For now, the House will not jump the gun to say anything further.”

Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, however declined comment on the matter saying “the story (of the faulty jet) in PUNCH speaks for itself.”

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