A human rights crusader and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN),Femi Falana, has said the use of aircraft in the presidential fleet by members of the First Family for private events was not backed by law.
In a statement personally issued and signed by him on Sunday, Falana asked President Muhammadu Buhari to stop members of his family from using aircraft in the presidential fleet.
It would be recalled that the president’s daughter, Hanan Buhari, had flown in a presidential jet to Bauchi on Thursday for a private function, a development, which had generated condemnations and arguments from section of Nigerians.
Though, the president’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu had defended the use of the presidential jet by Buhari’s daughter, saying it was a normal practice for the number one family to use the presidential aircraft.
Shehu in a statement explained: “It’s true that a member of the First Family was flown to Bauchi on a mission duly authorised. It wasn’t an impromptu or improper trip because it followed normal procedure. The Presidency informed the National Security Adviser of the mission who in turn informed the Commander of the Presidential Air Fleet.
“The normal practice in existence for a long time is that the presidential air fleet is available to the president and the first family and four others. These four are the vice-president, the senate president the speaker and any other person authorised by the president.”
Falana, in his reaction, however, said, “With respect, the statement credited to the Presidency is incorrect as it is at variance with the official policy of the Federal Government. In other words, the official policy does not authorise the children of the President to use the Presidential jets to attend to private social functions.
“In fact, there is no precedent whatsoever for such privatisation of the presidency of Nigeria. Having publicly declared that his administration would maintain ‘a compact and reliable aircraft for the safe airlift of the President, the Vice-President and other government officials that go on special missions’ President Buhari is stopped from allowing members of the first family to use the jets for their private affairs.”
He said Buhari had promised to reduce the cost of maintaining aircraft in the presidential fleet, which according to him, stands at N8.5 billion in the 2020 budget.
“The so called ‘normal practice’ of using the aircraft in the presidential fleet by members of the first family to attend to private engagements is not backed by any extant law or official policy.
“In view of the foregoing, we call on President Buhari to stop the members of his family from using any of the aircraft in the presidential fleet with a view to cutting down on waste.
“A country that is said to be the headquarters of the greatest number of poverty stricken people in the world cannot afford to waste billions of Naira on the use of presidential aircraft and hiring of commercial jets by state governors that are owing workers several months of unpaid salaries,” Falana added.
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