Presidency, Obi Lock Horns Over Purchase of New Presidential Jets

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Former Labour Party’s presidential candidate, Peter Obi, has expressed his strong disapproval towards the Federal Government’s proposal to acquire new aircraft for the presidential fleet.

Peter Obi denounced the move as highly insensitive, decrying the Federal Government’s apparent disregard for the plight of millions of Nigerians struggling under the weight of crippling economic policies. According to Obi, the proposed expenditure represents a blatant display of insensitivity at a time when many citizens are grappling with issues of poverty and insecurity.

The Presidency, in a sharp rebuttal to Peter Obi’s remarks, lambasted his position as insensitive and misguided. Defending the proposed purchase of new presidential aircraft, the Presidency questioned whether Obi would prefer to compromise the safety of the President by allowing him to travel on potentially faulty planes.

The Special Adviser to President Bola Tinubu on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, while speaking with The Punch on Monday said, “Does Peter Obi want the President dead? Is that his wish? Does he want him to continue moving around in a rickety plane and die like the VP of Malawi and Iran President? Let him tell us. This is a basic thing any sane government will do. You can’t toy with your President’s welfare.

“The plane he used now, I learnt, was bought during (former President) Obasanjo’s era. That was over 20 years ago and I learnt it was a very small plane. The plane developed a problem the last time he travelled to Saudi Arabia. The President had to go from there to the UK on a commercial airline. Even those managing them said the aircraft needed to be replaced.

“Why will any right-thinking person still want the President to move around in it? In any way, it is the National Assembly that officially recommended that new ones should be bought. Sometimes, Peter Obi opened his mouth to make unnecessary statements.”

The House of Representatives Committee on National Security and Intelligence, in a recent recommendation, urged the Federal Government to acquire new aircraft for President Bola Tinubu and Vice President Kashim Shettima.

After a thorough investigation into the status of the presidential air fleet, the Committee issued a comprehensive report. In their findings, the committee highlighted the pressing need for the Nigerian Government to replace the current aging aircraft with modern ones.

Just a few months after the Presidential Air Fleet reportedly marked three of its aircraft for sale, the House of Representatives Committee on National Security and Intelligence made a recommendation for the purchase of new planes to replace the aging fleet.

Taking to his official X handle, Peter Obi, the former governor of Anambra State, vented his frustration at the Federal Government’s apparent intention to buy new presidential jets despite the country’s current economic turmoil. In his post, Obi expressed grave disappointment that while Nigerians grapple with the crippling effects of hyperinflation, a plummeting currency, and widespread poverty, the government seems more focused on securing luxurious aircraft for its top officials.

Obi said, “This demonstrates extreme insensitivity to citizens’ struggles. With rising insecurity, poverty, hunger, and homelessness, this decision highlights the disconnect that is apparent between the government and the people. It is unacceptable as the situation in the country today more than ever demands a more compassionate use of resources, prioritising citizens.

“It is on record that our presidential jets have an average age of 12 years, purchased when most Nigerians could afford necessities. Now, as our country faces significant challenges, including a high debt profile, our citizens are in even greater need. Instead of adding to our luxuries, we should be focused on alleviating their suffering and finding solutions to their problems.

“While we had earlier refurbished the old VP residence with $2m, the over 100-year-old US Vice President’s house has only undergone wide-scale renovations twice, funded by taxpayers’ money; in 1993 and 2021. Every new US VP is free to finance any minor refurbishing from his funds.

“It is, therefore, time to stop this impunity, insensitivity, and shamelessness and refocus on the needs of our people. We must prioritise education, healthcare, and lifting our citizens out of poverty. Let us work together to build a nation that truly serves its people, not just the interests of a few.”

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