Debtor States, Others Spend N6bn to Maintain Private Jets

Debtor States, Others Spend N6bn to Maintain Private Jets

L-R: Wike, Aregbesola, Ishaku and Abubakar

As the cash crunch continues to hit the federal and state governments across the country owing to declining global oil prices,  SUNDAY PUNCH has gathered that 11 private jets and helicopters,  worth N36.54bn  and owned by seven state governments, are being maintained with about N6bn yearly.

The jets and helicopters are owned by Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Cross River, Bauchi, Taraba, Osun and 
Lagos states.

Rivers, which owed its workers between three and 10 months’ salaries as of June 20, 2015, has two private jets and one helicopter. They are:

Bombardier Global 5000 acquired for $45m (N8.9bn); Embraer Legacy 600, which goes for about $16m (N3.152bn); and an Augusta Westland helicopter, which goes for about $10m (N1.97bn), according to aircraftcompare.com, an online aviation portal that provides estimated prices of aircraft.

The Taraba State Government, which does not owe its workers owns:

 two Embraer ERJ 145, with each going for $21m (N4.13bn), 

Akwa Ibom, which as of June 20 had cleared all outstanding workers’ salaries, owns:

an American-made Gulfstream G450, which according to aircraftcompare.com, costs $38.9m (N7.66bn).

Osun state,which as of June 20 owed its workers seven months’ salaries, has:

 a French-made Eurocopter ASS 355 helicopter it said was acquired for N500m ($2.538m at the current official exchange rate of N197 to the United States dollar). 

Cross River owes some of her workers six months salaries, others have two months’ outstanding. They have:

 a Bombardier Dash 8 that industry experts estimate to worth $10m (N1.97bn). 

Bauchi State, which as of June 20 owed two months’ salaries, has:

 one Embraer ERJ 145, which costs $21m (N4.137bn), according to aircraftcompare.com.

Lagos, which is not indebted to its workers, has:

 two Bell 412 helicopters, with each costing $6.7m (N1.319bn), according to aircraftcompare.com estimates. Thus, the two helicopters cost around $13.4m (N2.64bn). They were acquired under the Lagos State Security Trust Fund platform, an initiative of the state government and private partners.

The total cost of the 11 private jets and helicopters is estimated at $198.80m (N39.17bn).

According to airline chief executives and industry experts, airlines spend between 15 and 20 per cent of the cost of an aircraft on its operations yearly. This means not less than $29.82m (N5.875bn) is spent every year as running costs on the jets by the seven state governments.

This is coming just as cash-strapped states seeking the release of President Muhammadu Buhari-approved bailout funds have indicated that they have no plan to sell their private jets and helicopters in order to ameliorate their ravaging economic condition.

Osun and Cross River states, which are currently seeking N34.988bn and N7.856bn respectively in loans from banks through the Federal Government bailout package, said rather than sell their private jets and helicopters, they had put them into commercial use by leasing them to some aviation companies.

The Chief Press Secretary to the Cross River State Governor, Mr. Christian Ita, said:

 “We have put the aircraft, Bombardier Dash 8, under Aerocontractors Airlines for commercial purposes. We bought it so that it could be used to convey people to the Obudu Ranch.”

The Director, Bureau of Communications and Strategy, Governor’s Office, Osun State, Mr. Semiu Okanlawon, did not pick calls or respond to text messages sent to his mobile telephone, but the All Progressive Congress Chairman in the state, Mr. Adegboyega Famodun, had a few months ago said the state government had put the Eurocopter ASS 355 helicopter into commercial use by leasing it to an airline.

He, however, said the state normally recalled it whenever it needed it.

Bauchi State, which is seeking N8.6bn in bailout funds from the Federal Government, could not readily comment on whether it would sell or put for lease its Embraer ERJ 145. The plane is expected to return back to the country from Morocco any time from now, the state government said two weeks ago.

However, Lagos, Rivers and Akwa Ibom states, which have yet to apply for bailout funds perhaps because they have no need for it, declined to comment on whether their private jets and helicopters would be sold or put into commercial use.

The spokesperson for Governor Akinwumi Ambode, Mr. Habib Aruna, did not pick calls or respond to a text message seeking enquiry on the state’s plan for its two helicopters.

The Special Adviser to the Rivers State Governor on Media and Publicity, Mr. Opunabo Inko-Tariah, said he had not been briefed by the governor on the plans for the jets.

The Chief Press Secretary to Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Ekerette Udo, and the Commissioner of Information, Mr. Aniekan Umanah, neither picked calls nor responded to text messages sent to their telephones on the state’s Gulsstream 450 aircraft.

The  Federal Government bailout for the states, coming as loans from commercial banks, is repayable at an interest rate of nine per cent over a 20-year period, according to the Central Bank of Nigeria.

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