Presidential Jet: Nigeria To Buy An Aircraft Seized From Arab Prince By German Bank

The Nigerian News Outlet PREMIUM TIMES report that barring any change in plans, the Nigerian government will purchase an Airbus A330 aircraft seized from an unnamed Arab prince and businessman who could not pay hundreds of millions of dollars he owed a German bank.

Presidency officials have kept their lips shut about plans to buy a new presidential jet. However, this newspaper has obtained information that the government has already identified an aircraft for purchase but is scrambling for funds to consummate the transaction.

The identified aircraft is said to be a repossessed one recovered from a troubled oil sheikh who used the aeroplane as collateral for a loan he obtained from an unidentified German bank to buy it. When a bank loan is taken to purchase an aircraft, the aircraft is usually pledged as collateral.

Our sources said the bank repossessed the aircraft from the debtor businessman but found it challenging to sell due to its executive customisation.

The aircraft is now in the possession of L & L International LLC, an American aviation firm based in Miami, Florida. L & L International LLC is trying to help the German bank sell it to the Nigerian government.

The multi-engine prestige jet, which has an elaborate VIP configuration, is said to be worth $600 million. But the Nigerian government is offering “a little over $100 million.” Our sources say they are unsure if that offer is acceptable to L & L International LLC.

“If L & L International accepts the amount offered, it will be an excellent deal for Nigeria,” one of our sources, an aviation expert, said. “Nigeria can resell it twice or triple that amount. And it is a perfect aircraft.” An L & L International spokesperson told PREMIUM TIMES Thursday that he has no details to share concerning the transaction.

Another source said AMAC Aerospace AG, a Swiss aviation company, is coordinating the Nigerian government's purchase of the aircraft. AMAC Aerospace AG has a long-standing aircraft maintenance contract with Nigeria's Presidential Air Fleet (PAF).

According to the source, the company identified the aircraft and recommended that the Nigerian government purchase it, citing its affordable cost and reliability. The company is now coordinating the purchase by liaising with L & L International and Nigeria's presidential air fleet officials. When contacted, Alexis Ott, AMAC Aerospace's director of maintenance sales and key account management, declined comment, saying he could not discuss his company's business relationships with unrelated parties.

Multiple presidential sources told PREMIUM TIMES that the government is now scrambling to find the funds to buy the aircraft. While the government has put three of the aircraft in the fleet for sale, it is believed that they may not fetch enough money to settle the cost of the aircraft to be acquired as a replacement.

An official said some of the money to purchase the plane would come from the N180 billion contingency fund provided for a service-wide vote in the 2023 supplementary budget. On Thursday, the National Assembly approved President Bola Tinubu's request to extend the lifespan of the 2023 supplementary budget to December 31.

“The government did not envisage the purchase of aircraft this year, so there is no provision for it in the 2024 budget,” one official said, asking not to be named because he has no permission to speak on the matter. “But with the airworthiness of some aircraft in the presidential air fleet now suspect, at least one aircraft will have to be replaced to resolve that emergency.”

In a June 4 report forwarded to the presidency after an investigative hearing, the House Committee on National Security and Intelligence asked the federal government to immediately procure two aeroplanes for Messrs Tinubu and Shettima to secure the transportation of the country's top officials.

The House Committee's call immediately triggered widespread criticism from some Nigerians, who questioned the wisdom of buying new aeroplanes when Nigeria faces severe economic hardship.

However, a few days later, the Senate Committee on National Security and Intelligence supported the recommendations made by its House of Representatives counterpart. The Chairman of the Committee, Shehu Buba, who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES exclusively from Saudi Arabia, where he performed this year's hajj, said not quickly overhauling the presidential air fleet could endanger the president's and his deputy's lives.

Mr Buba said, “It is true that our country is facing economic difficulty, but that will not justify jeopardising or endangering the lives of our president, our vice president, other top government officials, and any citizen for that matter.

“We are all aware of the air mishaps in Iran and Malawi recently, which claimed the lives of the president and vice president of those countries, respectively. We commiserate with the people and governments of those countries. But we must also, as a people, do whatever is necessary to lower the possibility of such disasters in our country.

“No sacrifice is too much to pay for the safety of our leaders and citizens. We elected them. So, we have a collective responsibility to protect them at all times.”

When asked why lawmakers are pushing for new aircraft for the nation's top leaders but uninterested in calling on the government to pay workers a decent minimum wage, the Senator said, “The recommendations they (House Committee) made are related to those matters. The safety of our leaders and the health of the presidential air fleet are matters of national security concern. Raising those matters does not mean the committee members do not care about the issue of minimum wage, which is already being well handled by government and organised labour.”

A senior aide to Mr Tinubu told PREMIUM TIMES Thursday night that the government could not heed the National Assembly's call to purchase two new aircraft.

He said, “The best the government can do is to go for one at the moment, and it is gladdening that we are getting a good second-hand aircraft at a good price.”

The Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) spokesperson, Zakari Minjiyawa, declined to comment on Thursday when asked about the status of the presidential jet transaction. He said the Presidential Air Fleet, domiciled in ONSA, had yet to brief him on any development on the matter.

Last updated on July 16th, 2024 at 12:00 am

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