Although it is quite common to hear that Nigeria does not lead the world in anything, I want to say that is not correct (in President Jonathan’s voice…lol!). A West African behemoth bursting at the seams with over 170 million souls, Nigeria is the world’s largest grower (not exporter) of cassava even if we have not been able to make any sensible use of it. Cassava bread? Y’all need to dial Aso Rock for that. Manioc aside, Nigeria leads the entire continent in one rather exclusive and luxurious niche: it has the largest presidential air fleet of any head of state anywhere in Africa and it is one of the largest on earth. Oh, and our legislators are also the highest paid in the world, even if they are mainly a complete set of benchwarmers with no reasonable contribution to national development.
If they are not putting their smelly feet on the tables of the Hallowed Chambers, they are in a billionaire’s house stuffing thousands of dollars in their caps. Back to business. Why were three pilots of the Nigerian Presidential Air Fleet killed? What happened when Abacha’s plane nearly crashed in Ibadan? How PAF pilots were used for dirty by safesaver” href=”http://www.abiyamo.com/the-untold-story-of-the-nigerian-presidential-air-fleet/#”>jobs? You will know all in a bit. Btw, Abiyamo is a kwezy lover of planes and flying (don’t blame me, I went to a Nigerian Air Force school) and today, we will take a look at one of the world’s most prestigious air convoys, the Presidential Air Fleet of the Nigerian Air Force (PAF). I’m the captain today and you sure gon’ enjoy the flight! Your belts, please.
In the late 1970s, the Presidential Fleet was commandeered by pilots from the Nigeria Airways and these included Captain Dele Ore and later the soft-spoken Captain Paul Mamman Thalal of the Nigerian Air Force (from the north). Captain Thahal, who was the Commander of the Presidential Air Fleet (he was also of the Boeing 747 fleet with Captains B. Allwell-Brown (Director of Flight Operations, he was from the South-South and was highly-detribalized), JB Ibrahim and HI Ogede) was the Personal Pilot and Captain of the by safesaver” href=”http://www.abiyamo.com/the-untold-story-of-the-nigerian-presidential-air-fleet/2/#”>Executive Jet of General Yakubu Gowon, who was the head of state (READ HOW CAPTAIN THAHAL SERVED MURTALA MUHAMMED IN DARING OPERATIONS HERE: http://www.abiyamo.com/murtala-muhammed-nigerias-most-popular-leader/8/ ). Thahal (a highly detribalized Nigerian too) commandeered the PAF with Captain Nnaji later retired as the Managing Director of the Nigeria Airways in 1979 (Thahal and Allwell-Brown brought some of the best quality leadership to the defunct Nigeria Airways and you can read of Thahal’s service under Gowon here: http://www.abiyamo.com/yakubu-gowon-nigerias-wartime-leader/14/). As at that time, the Nigeria Airways was so good that its aviation safety records were some of the very best in Africa and its pilots were used by the Nigerian Air Force during the Nigerian Civil War through routes that were considered to be very dangerous or too risky. (It will also interest you to know that the most prominent non-commercial airline operators then, in addition to the PAF, included the Nigeria Police (now an empty black shell), Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited, Julius Berger (e don tey..lol) and the National by safesaver” href=”http://www.abiyamo.com/the-untold-story-of-the-nigerian-presidential-air-fleet/2/#”>Electric Power Authority, now also a dark empty shell of its former self, ‘radiating’ its darkness and dark energy all over the country).
-Under the government of the former President Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari, the Federal Government decided to purchase a new presidential aircraft as his predecessors were flying on commercial airlines and the Shagari government felt it was not dignifying enough (as if Nigeria’s poverty level is dignifying). So, the decision was made to beef up the PAF. But the most interesting part of the gist is that it was Shagari that ordered the plane (a Gulfstream which was to be the flagship of the Presidential Air Fleet) but he never used it, he never even got to receive it. The plane arrived in April 1984 and those in by safesaver” href=”http://www.abiyamo.com/the-untold-story-of-the-nigerian-presidential-air-fleet/2/#”>power then were the no-nonsense duo of Buhari (READ ALL ABOUT MAJOR GENERAL MUHAMMADU BUHARI HERE: http://www.abiyamo.com/muhammadu-buhari-nigerias-strictest-leader/ ) and Idiagbon. When the aircraft (named FGN VICTOR) arrived that morning at the Airlift Command of the Nigerian by safesaver” href=”http://www.abiyamo.com/the-untold-story-of-the-nigerian-presidential-air-fleet/2/#”>Air Force at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, there was a torrent of criticism from the media as to why the government would maintain such a large presidential fleet while the FG-owned Nigeria Airways was in the throes of death and could not even get passengers.
-At a time between the Shagari and Obasanjo governments, the Presidential Air Fleet was made up of two Super Falcons, a customized Boeing 747 (then called the Victor 1) specially adapted for long-distance hauls, a Lockheed L-1011 TriStar (a widebodied airliner suitable for medium to long-range by safesaver” href=”http://www.abiyamo.com/the-untold-story-of-the-nigerian-presidential-air-fleet/2/#”>flights) and four Super Puma helicopters.
-Later, the Nigerian Presidential Air Fleet was commandeered by civilian pilots from the Nigeria Airways (of blessed memory) in collaboration with military personnel. This line of thinking was adopted then because of fear of overthrowing the Head of State in the air or using the airborne wing of the military to carry out a coup like the 1985 aborted coup under General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida when coup plotters were alleged to have planned to make use of NAF bases to launch a surgical strike or hijack the presidential aircraft and oust IBB. (Here is a bit on the aborted coup: in December 1985, the IBB government raised an alarm that it had discovered a plot to overthrow Babangida, and people implicated included the late General Mamman Jiya Vatsa, a soldier-poet, national chairman of the Association of Nigerian Authors and IBB’s childhood friend. There was something very unique with this particular plot: for the first time, air force officers, rather than those of the army, were to carry out the attack. The plotters were accused of planning to destroy the Dodan Barracks, then the seat of power and other strategic locations in Lagos from the air using NAF bombers. In fact, some of those convicted of plotting the coup like Martin Luther and Asen Ahura (both Squadron Leaders in the Nigerian Air Force) and Wing Commander Ben Ekele were actually pilots of the Presidential Air Fleet responsible for transporting IBB himself and other high-ranking military officers of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council, AFRC. They were all executed.
-Luther had been in charge of the PAF, in fact, he had flown three Nigerian heads of state in the past few years and had just returned from a military training abroad. As for Ekele, he was the commander of the Strike Group at the NAF Base in Makurdi and was the leader of the Mikoyan MiG-29 fighters’ squadron and for two consecutive years, he was voted one of the very best pilots in the NAF. IBB did not stop there, he revenged with a devastating blow to the NAF by crippling it with lack of funds, and the entire NAF itself would have been scrapped or turn to an airborne wing of the Nigerian Army but for the fact that the Chief of Air Staff, CAS, the late Air Marshal Ibrahim Mahmud Alfa, was IBB’s personal friend. The NAF was so thoroughly battered that by August 1993, the Jaguars and other fighters had been sold off and all that was left was merely about five jets, almost dead and barely serviceable. This writer believes that the NAF is yet to recover from such a horrendous blow).
However, times have changed and the tides have turned. Today, the PAF is commandeered mainly by personnel from the Nigerian Air Force (and I must confess, you will really blush with pride seeing the crew, their training is impeccable and the sophistication with which they ferry the Nigerian Head of State from continent to continent is simply outstanding).
-The real evolution of the current PAF with the involvement of the Nigerian Air Force can be said to have started in December 1978 when the Federal Government made the decision to transfer the operations of all presidential aircraft in the fleet over to the NAF, from the Nigeria Airways. Reasons were not stated but can easily be adduced. For this purpose, an Executive Squadron was created under the NAF Military Airlift Wing. The NAF Executive Squadron later metamorphosed to become the Executive Airlift Group (EAG). At first, the defunct Ministry of Special Duties oversaw the budgets of the EAG but later, it became the duty of the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA). All along, a combined crew of NAF officers and Nigeria Airways crew was used.
-However, things changed suddenly in December 1985 following the abortive coup. IBB did not only thank his stars but also had the Presidential Boeing 727 aircraft withdrawn from the Executive Airlift Group and handed it over to an exclusive set of Nigeria Airways pilots to control. Thus, in 1986, the IBB government formed the Presidential Fleet (note, it was called Presidential Fleet, PF) with its first head being Captain Moses Gowon. The PAF under IBB operated a total of eight aircraft and when the Boeing was given to the Nigeria Airways, the remaining seven were left under the control of the EAG.
FUNCTIONS, STRUCTURE AND ORGANIZATION of THE PAF
The Presidential Air Fleet was formed to primarily provide rapid, safe and comfortable airlift for the President of the Federal Republic, the Vice President and other Very Important Person(s) as may be directed by the President through the Office of the Chief of Staff to the President.
As it is with any efficient organization, the PAF is well-structured and it has a Fleet Headquarters with five Wings, which are:
Each Wing is headed by a Wing Chief (tantamount to a Commanding Officer in a normal NAF Unit). The Fleet itself is headed by a Commander and assisted by Staff Officers. The Commander of the Presidential Air Fleet reports directly to the Nigerian by safesaver” href=”http://www.abiyamo.com/the-untold-story-of-the-nigerian-presidential-air-fleet/3/#”>Air Force Headquarters not to the CAS but through the Chief of Training and Operations whose branch is one of the seven under the Office of the CAS who in turn reports to the President. Neat hierarchy I’d say. The Fleet also has a Liaison Office at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa.
Funds for the flight operations, maintenance of the aircraft and the overall running of the Fleet is provided by the Presidency and as you might have guessed, the PAF is very active. From 1996 when it was established, it has recorded an annual average of 1,900 by safesaver” href=”http://www.abiyamo.com/the-untold-story-of-the-nigerian-presidential-air-fleet/3/#”>flights logging a yearly average of 2140 hours. The Nigerian Air Force says that these flights are mainly at the behest of the Presidency, the National Assembly (Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives), the Judiciary (Chief Justice of the Federation) or in some instances to pursue the foreign policy goals, via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when ECOWAS, AU maybe involved. At other times, Heads of State of nations on good terms with Nigeria may also be ferried by the PAF and that was what happened under the Obasanjo presidency in 2003 when the former Liberian President Charles Taylor was flown into Nigeria to be exiled in Calabar, Cross River State.
OPERATION AND MANAGEMENT
The budget for the Presidential Air Fleet is under the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA). Its total budgetary allocation for the year 2012 was around N3.5 billion naira. The current Commander of the Presidential Air Fleet is Air Commodore Uko Ebong who took over from Air Commodore (now Air Vice Marshal) Adesola Nunayon Amosu on Monday, 4th February, 2013 at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa (see picture). While Amosu was still PAF Commander, he said: ‘…with the acquisition of the new aircraft, the Fleet had fully entered into the regime of long-range operations. By implications, it is now one stop to any destination in the world.’ These guys are some of the best pilots on earth. To fly a president for years, then you must be a badoo, one of the baddest guys that ever liveth..lol!
PREPARING A PRESIDENTIAL TRIP
Before the PAF is to ferry the Nigerian Head of State anywhere, there is a meticulous planning and here, attention is paid to details. There is a manifest drawn up in advance by the Protocol Unit of the PAF and distributed to those concerned. The manifest shows all the schedule and locations of the visits of the President. It is also the duty of the Protocol Unit of the PAF to ensure that the passports and travelling documents of all those to go on the trip are prepared. If you are travelling on any of the aircraft on the PAF, you may not see your passport until the journey ends, and that is because you do not handle any of the immigration matters, it is all sorted out by the Protocol Unit.
INSIDE THE AIRCRAFT
Just as the name implies, this is a section of the presidential jet that is reserved for the President. It contains an office for the Head of State to carry out his presidential duties and also another section for relaxation. Behind the Executive Chamber is the area nicknamed ‘Boys Quarters’ under the Abacha regime. It is separated from the Executive Chamber by a curtain and is a place for the PAF Protocol Officers such as the cabin crew and the security operatives. This was the configuration as at 1999 and it might have changed.
-All the seats in the aircraft of the Presidential Air Fleet are covered with fabrics and materials that are of the Nigerian national colours (green and white) and they also have the coat of arms emblazoned on them.
-Items on board such as eating ware are also customized and the imprint of the insignia of the Presidential Air Fleet is visible s(see picture).
THE PRESIDENTIAL AIR FLEET UNDER SANI ABACHA
-In January 1996, the Abacha government decided that the military EAG and the civilian PF crew be by safesaver” href=”http://www.abiyamo.com/the-untold-story-of-the-nigerian-presidential-air-fleet/6/#”>merged together and be under a single command. That was how the Presidential Air Fleet (PAF) came into existence, and under Abacha as at that time, the number of aircraft in the fleet stood at 11. Extra inclusions to the staff of the PAF were civil servants from the Office of the National Security Adviser and the Secretary to the Federal Government (SGF) who were to assist with the activities relating to administration and finances.
-Under General Sani Abacha, aircraft in the PAF were not able to go regularly for routine maintenance overseas because of his running battle with the international community. That might have contributed to Abacha rarely leaving the country. (READ ALL ABOUT SANI ABACHA HERE>>>http://www.abiyamo.com/sani-abacha-nigerias-most-enigmatic-ruler/ ). Later, when Abacha died suddenly in 1998, his widow, Maryam, was in tears as she climbed the stairs of the presidential jet for the last time. Onboard were her kids and the stiff body of her late husband. The same scene replayed itself in May 2010 when President Yar’adua gave up the ghost.
-There were also some times when pilots of the PAF were used for acts that can be described as less than charitable. According to Christiana ‘Chris’ Ngozi Anyanwu, now a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and as a journalist, went through hell under Abacha, she stated in her book, The Years of Terror: A Journalist’s Eye-witness Account of Nigeria in the Hands of its Worst Tyrant that Abacha went to any length to silence his opponents, even if that meant staining the prestige of the Presidential Air Fleet. She wrote of Shehu Yar’adua’s imprisonment: ‘…according to the account of the two eye-witnesses, on the day he was transferred from Port Harcourt prison to Enugu, a pilot in the presidential air fleet flew in the killer squad to Port Harcourt. They took Yar’adua out of his prison cell, under the guise of transfer to Enugu prison. There was a detour on the way. The prisoner was suspicious when Dr. Yakassai reportedly tried to inject him forcefully. He resisted. There was a scuffle. The killer squad reportedly overpowered him, held his hand behind…” It will also interest you to know that a month after a pilot of the PAF (Luther mentioned above) attended Anyanwu’s party, he by safesaver” href=”http://www.abiyamo.com/the-untold-story-of-the-nigerian-presidential-air-fleet/6/#”>was arrested by the IBB junta for coup plotting.
THE PRESIDENTIAL AIR FLEET IN LATER YEARS
-In 1999, during the Votes and Proceedings at the House of Representatives, National Assembly, the issue of the rationalisation of the Presidential Fleet was reviewed and the following was stated:
‘There is the need to have at least 2 (two) planes for long haul journeys with substantial carrying capacity in the Presidential Fleet but there is only one Boeing 727 aircraft at the moment. But even so, the Boeing 727 will no longer be allowed into European Airspace from April 1, 2000 because of the noise level. To meet the European noise level standard, we either replace the aircraft or the engine. To replace the engine will be cheaper. Therefore, the aircraft is to be re-engined at an estimated cost of US$9 million or N900,000,000.00. A second aircraft, an Airbus, which is fairly used and has been refurbished, is being purchased at the cost of US$80 million or N8 billion (eight billion naira)….’
At another point, the following was stated:
Dear Honourable Speaker,
RE: RATIONALISATION OF PRESIDENTIAL FLEET
Please refer to your letter No. NASS/SPK/P/101/1/63 of February 15, 2000 on the above subject matter receipt of which, I hereby acknowledge with thanks.
…………….it is my ardent hope that, the National Assembly will shelve the idea of purchasing its own aircraft as it is neither prudent nor is it advisable to do so. Such action will, to say the least, send the wrong signals to Nigerians and the International Community. With a dedicated aircraft within the fleet to the National Assembly, we can shuffle round if the aircraft goes for servicing. But you cannot do shuffling with one aircraft. As you would have observed from paragraph 4 above, maintenance of aircraft is a very expensive venture. Being part of a fleet is cost-effective in upkeep and maintenance. At a time when we desperately need the understanding, sympathy and support of the International Community in our quest for by safesaver” href=”http://www.abiyamo.com/the-untold-story-of-the-nigerian-presidential-air-fleet/7/#”>debt reduction and effort to revamp the nation’s battered economy, the least expected of us is to collectively show our seriousness as Government and….
(Hmmmn, can you believe what Nigerian lawmakers were saying in 1999. Today, the Presidential Air Fleet is swollen and oedematous, no talk of ‘re-engining’ anymore…lol!)
-Under the Obasanjo presidency, the PAF was thoroughly used like rainwater…lol! Obasanjo travelled to as many nations as possible (although it seems GEJ is hellbent on breaking that record…lol!) and would send his ministers on various errands, and of course, they’d be transported using the PAF.
-Under the late President Yar’adua, his government clarified that the four new aircraft to be bought were not for the Presidency (him or his vice, Goodluck Jonathan) but for the Chief Justice of the Federation, the Senate President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and other top principal officers of the Federal Government. Not a few Nigerians declared the move as an irrational waste.
-THE PRESIDENTIAL AIR FLEET TEAM
Have you ever wondered who pilots the Nigerian Head of State all over the world? Cruising at thousands of feet above sea level and at speeds that will make any peregrine falcon green with envy, pilots of the Nigerian Presidential Air Fleet are some of the very best in the world. The fleet itself is based at the Presidential Wing, Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja (see pictures). Y’all need to see the wing (which also serves as the operational headquarters of the PAF), very very classy I must say The PAF is usually headed by an officer from the Nigerian by safesaver” href=”http://www.abiyamo.com/the-untold-story-of-the-nigerian-presidential-air-fleet/8/#”>Air Force from the rank of a Group Captain to an Air Commodore.
The PAF was under the Airlift Command of the NAF responsible for its maintenance and day-to-day running (specifically by the 501 Squadron of the Command). Later, after about 30 years of existence, the headquarters of the NAF Airlift Command was then moved to from Kano to Lagos then later to Abuja, side-by-side with the Fleet itself. Today, the personnel concerned with the administrative activities of the PAF are based in the Federal Secretariat. Also, some of the NAF officers who were with the PAF later rose to very high ranks in the NAF. Examples include:
-Air Marshal Mohammed Dikko Umar, later became the CAS. He was the Fleet Captain on the Hawker-Siddley 125 (one of the PAF aircraft, see below, Commanding Officer, Operational Services Wing at the Presidential Air Fleet. Umar spent a total of 16 years of his airforce by safesaver” href=”http://www.abiyamo.com/the-untold-story-of-the-nigerian-presidential-air-fleet/8/#”>career in the Presidential Air Fleet.
-The eleventh Chief of the Air Staff of the NAF, Air Vice Marshal Femi John Femi was at the Military Airlift Command, Ibadan in 1989 where he was the Senior Air Staff Officer.
-Air Marshal Akin Dada was the Senior Air Staff Officer, MAC, June 1988. He also later became the Chief of Air Staff.
-Air Marshal Jonah Domfa Wuyep, the 14th Chief of the Air Staff also served with the defunct Military Airlift Command in Ibadan from 1974-1980.
-Air Chief Marshal Paul Dike, also a former Chief of Air Staff. Dike actually became the Commander of the Presidential Air Fleet and was responsible for flying various Nigerian Heads of State. Give it to Dike, he remains one of the best brains in the NAF. In 1996, he received the Most Outstanding Air Force Officer Award and while studying at the National War College in Abuja, he received the the Chief of the Air Staff by safesaver” href=”http://www.abiyamo.com/the-untold-story-of-the-nigerian-presidential-air-fleet/8/#”>Prize for Best Air Power Research Work (Dike was promoted a Group Captain on the 22nd of January 1996). In 1997, Abacha made him the Commander of the Presidential Air Fleet. As Commander of the PAF in 2001, Dike announced that pilots of the PAF were to go for anti-terrorism by safesaver” href=”http://www.abiyamo.com/the-untold-story-of-the-nigerian-presidential-air-fleet/8/#”>training following the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US. Paul Dike is the first NAF officer to attain the rank of an Air Chief Marshal, an equivalent of a four-star general in the Nigerian Army.
-The current Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Alex Sabundu Badeh was also with the PAF. He was appointed at various times the Staff Officer 2 Operations at Training Command, Commanding Officer Administration, Operations Support and Operations Wings as well as Fleet Operations Officer in the Presidential Air Fleet. Interestingly, he was the Commander of the Presidential Air Fleet from June 2002 to October 2004.
-The Nigerian Air Force states that the current staff strength of the PAF is 47 NAF officers, 173 airmen/airwomen and 96 civilian staff, both of which are of the technical and administrative units.
AIRCRAFT IN THE NIGERIAN PRESIDENTIAL AIR FLEET
Even the Sultan of Brunei will be very jealous when he sees what our President by safesaver” href=”http://www.abiyamo.com/the-untold-story-of-the-nigerian-presidential-air-fleet/9/#”>cruises in. The Presidential Air Fleet has the following aircraft in its line-up (some were put up for sale recently):
1-Dassault Falcon 7X (5N-FGU) The 5N-FGU means “Five-November-Foxtrot-Golf-Uniform”: Developed technical faults on one of its very first flights and had to be declared unsafe all over the world for some time. The jet has three engines making it one of the safest on earth, it was made by the Messrs Dassault Aviation of France near Bordeaux, a wine-producing region and cost the Federal Government a princely sum of N7.65 billion naira ($51 million) and the crew from PAF had to stay in France for two weeks for training on how to handle the ultramodern aircraft. This particular aircraft was launched by Dame Patience Jonathan but had developed technical faults that same day it was flown to Sokoto with the Dame on board. It landed at the Sultan Saad Abubakar III Airport in Sokoto without any major hitches. However, we are yet to see any superlative performance from our leaders even if they continue to pamper themselves with the choiciest luxuries on earth.
2-Dassault Falcon 7X (5N-FGV): The Presidency has two of this and it is like the very best jet in the world. The Dassault Falcon 7X is a large-cabin, long-range by safesaver” href=”http://www.abiyamo.com/the-untold-story-of-the-nigerian-presidential-air-fleet/9/#”>business jet manufactured by Dassault Aviation of France. It is a very exciting craft for any pilot as it is the very first fully fly-by-wire jet on earth. It is also the very first aircraft to be fully designed with the aid of computer-based platform. Carrying a total of eight passengers, it has a range of 11,000km and reaches a maximum speed of 953
km/hr. The crew is two and it can carry up to 14 passengers excluding the crew.
The following are pictures of the interior of a Falcon7X but NOT of the PAF. The pictures are just for curious readers to have an idea of how the interior looks like:
3-Falcon 900 (5N-BOH): Put up for sale in December 2010
Nigerian Air Force Falcon 900 5N-BOH at Paris-le Bourget, October 8, 2012. CREDITS: Denis Deparis.
4-Falcon 900B (5N-FGO), (S5-FGE) executive aircraft, 16-seater, three-crew: Put up for sale.
5-Gulfstream 550 (5N-FGW). Bought for $53.3 million. Approval for purchase was given by the Federal Executive Council on the 12th of August, 2010. It was delivered by the US-based Messrs by safesaver” href=”http://www.abiyamo.com/the-untold-story-of-the-nigerian-presidential-air-fleet/9/#”>Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation.
6-Boeing 737-7N6 BBJ, 5N-FGT (marked the Nigerian Air Force 001, it is also called the Eagle One). Okay, the eagle has landed things..lol The Eagle One conspicuously bears the national colours (green white, green) painted in long horizontal stripes along the base of the white fuselage (see pictures). At the top of the plane itself, you can see the words ‘NIGERIAN AIR FORCE’ with a Seal of the President of Nigeria proudly embossed on its tail.
Made in the USA as a collaboration between the Boeing Commercial Planes and General Electric, the Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) is a corporate jet and as at 2009, a single one can cost from anywhere between $47 and 310 million. A typical BBJ has seats for 25-50 passengers and is fitted with the following:
-A master bedroom (sure, for the master noni…lol!)
-Washroom complete with showers.
-A conference area which can also double as the dining section.
The BBJ has a range of 11,480 kilometers with eight passengers and has a service ceiling of 41,000 feet (to put in proper perspective, Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain is a little over 27,000 feet). It is 33.63 metres long and a wingspan of 35.79 metres. Maximum speed is 890km/hr (the Bugatti Supersports Veyron can do almost half of that .
7-Gulfstream IV-SP (5N-FGP, later re-registered as 5N-BOD): 14-seater, three-crew. Put up for sale in 2010.
8-Gulfstream V (5N-FGS)
9-Hawker Siddley 125-800 (5N-AGZ) executive aircraft : Also referred to as the HS 125-800, nine-seater, three-crew. Put up for sale in 2010.
10. Hawker 4000 XP (first budgeted for in 2007 and delivered in 2010, cost N1.9 billion naira).
11. Dornier 228-200: A small twin-turboprop STOL utility aircraft.
12. A139 helicopter (A)
13. A139 helicopter (B)
14. Agusta-Westland A109E helicopter (made in Italy, I wonder when Nigeria will start manufacturing planes and export to other nations, na so so consume we dey consume)
15. Gulfstream 2 (GII): Put up for sale.
16. Cessna Citation Bravo (returned to the Nigerian Air Force)
17. BAe H Hawker 125-800B (5N-BOO): Put up for sale
-Although the safety records of the PAF is very clean and impressive, it must be said that there was a time when a presidential jet almost went crashing. It was Abacha. Shortly after he took power in November 1993, he embarked on a tour of military installations across the nation. At a point during the tour, they were to land in Ibadan Airport and for some period, it seemed impossible to land and it was as if the pilots had lost control. There was palpable panic in the cozy and comfortable interior as it was very clear that was not a minor technical fault. Ministers and top military officers who accompanied Abacha on the trip were visibly tensed and some felt that was the last moment on earth. Luckily, the PAF pilots battled and managed to land.
-Atimes, under Abacha, the presidential jet refused to start, and that was said to be due to the old age of the aircraft, some of which were decades old. Later, the Falcon 900 would witness more engines even up to GEJ presidency.
-On the 28th July, 2010, the ageing NAF 001 conveying President Jonathan developed some components and parts faults after it taxied for take-off at the Entebbe International Airport in Uganda after the 15th African Union Summit.
ISSUES THAT MUST BE RAISED ABOUT THE PAF
-First, I support that the Nigerian President (as long as he/she is doing all that is possible in the interest of the nation) deserves an air fleet. But a fleet that is not extravagant or one that is nothing but a wanton display of waste or a siphon for the embezzling of public funds. In other words, how accountable and transparent are the activities of the PAF? We need to know all these because all sorts of clandestine deals will only succeed in an atmosphere free from public scrutiny. That is one.
-Two, I want to hope that the rampant abuse of office and priviledge among Nigeria’s public officials has not dug its tentacles into the PAF where friends and associates of the President have access to the fleet (afterall Nigeria is not Zaire where Mobutu’s wife and mistresses cruised the Presidential Concorde from Gbadolite to Paris for lavish shopping sprees, abi?). This is wrong if it is happening and in a nation where helicopters of the navy can be used to ferry people up and down funerals that have no links whatsoever to national development, this is an issue that must be raised. There must be well-defined checks and balances in the use and operation of the PAF. I can recall that there were reports that an aircraft of the PAF was used to ferry two Indian prostitutes from Dubai, United Arab Emirates under the junta of the late General Sani Abacha in 1998. Now, you get what I’m talking about. The PAF should not be turned to kabukabu because it is the patrimony of all Nigerians. Again, recently, a jet from the PAF was dispatched to go pick the President of Malawi, Joyce Banda (who actually sold off her nation’s only presidential jet a Dassault Falcon 900EX, tail number 7Q-ONE for $15 million and the government’s 35 Mercedes Benz official cars meant for the President and cabinet members, and even went ahead to slash her own salary by 30% to cut budgets) and bring her to Nigeria. Just wondering why we need to do all these Father by safesaver” href=”http://www.abiyamo.com/the-untold-story-of-the-nigerian-presidential-air-fleet/11/#”>Christmas job when the Finance Minister is saying there is no enough money to meet the demands of ASUU (no be sey ASUU sef try o! Many lecturers are still a terror to their students and don’t offer any qualitative service). We should learn to cut costs and stop these professors of profligacy in power.
-Three: TOO LARGE, TOO EXPENSIVE. Owing to the incredibly huge amount of money spent on the purchase and the maintenance of the aircraft (which runs into billions annually) in the inventory of the PAF, some critics have tagged it the Presidential Air Fleece, as it is another way by which the nation is drained of its financial resources. I also agree that the PAF is more of profligacy in flight than a symbol of national pride and presidential power. Each time I tell a very good friend of mine that we Nigerians like to consume and consume without contributing anything useful and tangible to humanity in terms of production (we buy the by safesaver” href=”http://www.abiyamo.com/the-untold-story-of-the-nigerian-presidential-air-fleet/11/#”>latest phones and cars and yet we cannot export ordinary toothpick), he gets really angry but you too think of this and see if it makes any sense to you. The PAF is just too large and overbloated. Not many heads of state use more than one aircraft for VIP transport and flights and it is more of an exception across the globe for a leader to maintain a large air fleet. Even the President of the United States does not have a fleet as large as the PAF at his disposal. Some other leaders like those of Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco (the King uses a Boeing of the Royal Air Maroc), do not even have any presidential fleet and make use of their national airlines or carriers. President Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia, as controversial and dictatorial as he is, he has been using a single aircraft since 2005, a bland IL-62, while the President of Russia is fine with just two Ilyushin II-96-300PU and the Saudi King cruises around with a customized Boeing 747-300 while closer home in Zimbabwe, there are times when Robert Mugabe shares the aircraft with other commercial passengers on the nation’s airline, he might have been in power since the time of the dinosaurs but the strongman of Harare does not have an elaborate air fleet dedicated to him or his much-feared wife.
Fine, there are some other nations like France and Germany that have over 10 aircraft in their presidential fleet but anyone comparing the Nigerian economic status with those two world powers must be high on some cassava flakes. The budget for the PAF in 2012 covered the following:
-Construction of a new hangar.
-Purchase of sports and games equipment.
-Computerization of the aircraft spare parts inventory.
-Installation of cameras and related equipment.
-Construction of the Presidential Air Fleet staff quarters.
-The issue of refitting the PAF aircraft: While going through the aircraft of the other nations, I discovered that they had some features which I am not too sure the PAF can boast of, apart from the sheer luxury it displays (former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole was blushing like a three-year-old boy with vanilla-flavoured ice cream the first time he was on the President Air Fleet). For instance, the Air India One, a Boeing 747-437B for the President, Prime Minister and Vice President of India has anti-missile systems (even if there is no Boko Haram in Mumbai), jamming equipment and even air-to-air refuelling capabilities (ayam not too sure the NAF has air tankers anyway). I know the Dassault Falcon jets have their own encrypted satellite communications systems and advanced navigation facilities but I can’t say of the features above, especially which relate a lot to the security of the President and crew of the PAF.
It will not be a bad idea if the PAF has the most secured aircraft anywhere on earth. In Africa where things can be very unstable, a presidential jet should be as fortified as possible. In 1993, the Dassault jet of the Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana was hit by a missile. It crashed seconds after and the President of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza who had asked to catch a flight with his friend was also in the French jet. No occupant survived that single crash and it led to what we are all very familiar with: the Rwandan Genocide. Almost a million lives were lost in a few months. Still on India, the Indian Air Force has fortified the Air India One to such an extent that it now has advanced missile warning systems, a missile deflecting shield and electronic countermeasures aimed at taking care of all kinds of threats from ground or while in the air. For Naija wey bad belle people plenty, a word is enough for the wise…lol! (And what about an escape capsule like in Air Force One?
-Nigerian Air Force Direct Reporting Units: The Presidential Air Fleet: http://www.nigerianairforce.net/nigerianairforce/NAFStructure/PAF.aspx
-Nigeria: The Presidential Air Fleet (PAF)
-A history of aviation in Nigeria, 1925-2005 by Tunde Decker.
-The Union Manifesto: A Coup Detat by the Underworld by Dan Esiekpe
-Crippled Giant: Nigeria Since Independence by Eghosa E. Osagha
-African Concord, Issues 72-96, Concord Press of Nigeria, 1986.
-Foreign Policy Decision-making in Nigeria by Ufot Bassey Inamete
-West Africa, Issues 3451-3462, p.2299
-Nigeria: Bulletin on Foreign Affairs, Volume 10, Issues 2-4, Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, 1980.
-Gowon: The Biography of a Soldier-statesman by J. Isawa Elaigwu, p.229