The Presidential Air Fleet says its past years’ budgetary allocation was insufficient to fund the operations fleet and that some $45 million will be needed to maintain the aircraft.
The fleet commander, AVM Abubakar Abdullahi, told members of the House of Representatives Committee on National Security and Intelligence during an oversight visit in Abuja.
Represented by fleet operations officer Ahmed Dari, Mr Abdulahi said the quality of aircraft maintenance conducted is directly proportional to flight safety and is critical to the importance of safe operations in the fleet.
“It is important for this committee to note that for successive years, the fleet has been grossly underfunded, which has made it difficult to operate. From the fleet records, debts from preceding years are usually carried over to the following year, and this has become the tradition,” stated the fleet commander.
He told the legislators that “most of these debts are owned by service providers overseas. Considering that over 85 per cent of the fleet expenditure is forex, the actual budget figure in dollars is further diminished.”
The presidential fleet commander pointed out to the legislative committee that the average age of the presidential air fleet aircraft “is 11 years and in aviation, maintenance increases proportionately with the age of the aircraft.”
“Based on the fleet experience, the cost of maintaining each aircraft ranges between $1.5 million to $4.5 million depending on the level of maintenance,” said Mr Abdullahi. “Additionally, the year 2023 is an election year which translates to more missions and space requests for the aircraft due to increased usage.”
Ten aircraft were said to be n the presidential air fleet when the regime assumed power in 2015.
Mr Abdullahi said in 2021, the presidential air fleet submitted a budget of N18.76 billion, but only N12.55 billion was approved in the Appropriation Act, and as of December 2021, only N10.90 billion was released.
The fleet commander also revealed that in 2022, N19.47 billion was proposed, and N12.47 billion was approved in the national budget. He explained that the total releases to the fleet as of November 2022 was N11.13 billion, representing 98.07 per cent of the total fund approved.
Giving the breakdown of the releases, he said 99.83 per cent is for personnel cost, 94 per cent for overhead, and 99.99 per cent for capital expenditures.
He further stated that for the 2023 proposals, the fleet requires N15.52 billion, of which N438.57 million is for personnel cost; N11.64 billion is for overhead cost, while N3.44 billion is for capital expenditures.
“Please note that the shortfall in the overhead cost usually affects aircraft maintenance activities in the fleet. The inadequacy of this provision was brought to the attention of the respected committee as it has always during the budget defence and oversight visit,” Mr Abdullahi told the committee.
He stressed that aircraft maintenance, “which accounts for 46 per cent of the overall budget proposal, is an integral” part of the overhead cost.
Mr Abdullahi warned that the shortfall of the overhead “greatly affected aircraft maintenance activities in the fleet” because some “mandatory upgrades were carried out on a credit basis on the fleet’s longstanding relationship with maintenance companies while others have been moved to the year 2023 budget.”