UK’s Part Time Presidential Jet Vs Nigeria’s 'Airwaste' Fleet/

Contrary to the thoughts of many, since 5 July 2016, the United Kingdom is no longer in the league of countries with no dedicated government private jet or presidential jet - as it is often called.

Despite being the first country to purchase such airplanes for its Head of state in 1928 when the Royal Air Force (RAF) took a delivery of two Westland Wapitis for the exclusive use of King George V and the members of the royal family, the country has not had a presidential jet in recent years until taking delivery of this ‘part-time jet.’

Did I say a part-time jet? Yes, it is indeed one. After convincing the Parliament that a presidential jet would save the government around £775,000 a year for at least the next 20 years in charter costs from commercial carriers, David Cameron, the immediate past prime minister (PM) was granted an approval to refit a RAF Voyager A330 air-to-air refuelling aircraft at a cost of about £10m to serve as a ‘part-time’ presidential jet for only long-haul trips for the exclusive use of the PM, senior ministers and senior members of the Royal Family.

The plane's primary use would remain as an aerial tanker with the Military for refuelling and carrying out RAF duties and it would only be used by the government when necessary and available.

Devoid of all the luxuries presidential fleets are known to possess, the government ordered to build the aircraft as cheaply as possible by choosing the cheapest possible seating options. It features 58 business seats for royals and government officials and 100 standard class seats for accompanying journalists.

Buying presidential jets has been in the debates for a while. When Gordon Brown came to power, after considering the economic realities of the time, he cancelled plans drawn up by his predecessor Tony Blair to buy two private jets emphasising that the government couldn’t afford them.

How couldn’t the UK - world’s 5th richest country - afford one or two jets and then when it finally settled for one, it could only purchase a part-time service of a military jet?

Different countries have their different priorities. Generally in the developed countries, most especially in the conservative Europe, extra-luxury for leaders are classified as vanity and vanity projects and are hardly high on governments’ scale of preference. Rather the governments seek to provide comfort for the society such that the leaders themselves can also enjoy.

With a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which currently stands at $3.04 trillion, the UK is not only rich enough to provide a free and comprehensive range of health services to its residents but also annually doles out about £12b in foreign aid to developing nations, many of which have large fleets of presidential jets. The government’s annual aid budget alone can conveniently buy about 30 of Airbus A380-800 which is the world’s most expensive commercial aircraft at about $400 a unit. The UK also gives about £250m (N100 billion @ £1 to N400) in aids annually to Nigerian government and its institutions.

It is not a coincidence that great nations are the least in vanity project engagements or wasteful spendings while the poor countries invest so very much of their already scarce resources in such projects. While Norway - one the richest countries in the world in per capita term with close to $1 trillion of profits from its oil invested in sovereign wealth funds - has no presidential jet, Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe flies a $400 million Boeing 767 which is the third most expensive presidential jet in the world. Only Mexico’s Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner and Saudi royal family’s Airbus A380 and Boeing 747 have higher price tags. With all its riches, the US president’s Air Force One, has only a price tag of $325 million.

Notwithstanding all its economic and infrastructural challenges and in contrast to the UK part-time presidential jet, Nigeria still has 9 presidential jets and helicopters in its fleet despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s order in October 2016 to sell off two aircrafts, a Falcon 7x executive jet and Hawker 4000.

According to Wikipedia, the Nigerian Air Force currently maintains a Boeing 737 Business Jet for the President. In addition, there is a Gulfstream V-SP, a Gulfstream 550, two Falcon 7Xs, a Do228-200, and 3 A139 choppers. 2 Falcon 900, a GIV-SP, and G II were all recently sold while Citation Bravo and Hawker 800 were returned to the Air Force.

AW139 is a 15-seat medium-sized twin-engined helicopter.

While the UK government has already had a plan in place to keep the use of it part-time jet for at least 20 years, Nigerian government makes new purchases every few years.

It is worthy of note that while as recently as August 12, 2010, the Federal Executive Council led by the Late President Umaru Yar’Adua approved $155.3 for the purchase of two Falcon 7x ( at $51 each) and one Gulfstream G550 aircraft for $53.3m to beef up the Presidential Air Fleet, the government of Goodluck Jonathan, Yar’Adua’s successor, in 2014 still budgeted yet N1.5 billion as deposit for the purchase of another new aircraft.

The wanton waste of public fund is not limited to the Federal government, some states of the federation that are struggling to keep up with their budgetary obligations today were also involved in these vanity projects just a few years ago..

In 2012, the Akwa Ibom State government led by Godswill Akpabio, who is now a serving Senator bought a Gulfstream G450 Aircraft with a listed price of $37,691,800. And similarly, former Governor Danbaba Suntai of a poorer Taraba State bought a Bell 407 Helicopter in that year and would also in October of the same year crash in another aircraft that belonged to his state, a single-engined Cessna 208 Caravan. A year later in 2013, former governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi, now Minister of Transport also bought one Bombardier Global Vision 5,000 with a listed price of $40 million and two Bell 412 Axis Helicopters, each of which costs around $6.7 million.

This wasteful spending will continue unabated until Nigerians show keen interest in the way they are governed and also demand probity and accountability from their leaders.

“When the people are ready, the government will be ready” - Rufus Kayode Oteniya

Rufus Kayode Oteniya writes from the UK. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Twitter: @oteniyark