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General News of Friday, 16 December 2022


We’re grossly underfunded, owing debts - Presidential Air Fleet to Reps

House of Representatives House of Representatives

The Presidential Air Fleet (PAF) has said that its budgetary allocations in the last two year have been grossly insufficient to fund its operations.

The Commander of the fleet, Abubakar Abdullahi made the declaration late Thursday when he received members of the House of Representatives committee on national security and intelligence who were on an oversight visit to its base in Abuja.

Abdullahi, who was represented by the fleet operations officer, Ahmed Dari said in 2021, the fleet submitted a total budget of N18,767,393,235 but only N12,550,18,732 was approved in the Appropriation Act, while N10,907,642,492 was released as of December 2021.

Dari said in 2022, the fleet proposed the sum of N19,479,313,645, but N12,476,607,142 was approved in the national budget.

He further explained that the total releases to the fleet as of November 2022 comprised 99.83 percent of personnel cost, 94 percent of overhead, and 99.99 percent of capital cost amounting to the sum of N11.13 billion which was 98.07 percent of the total fund approved.

For 2023, Dari said the fleet required the sum of N15,522,357,626 out of which N438,571,562 was for personnel cost; N11,641,170,764 is for overhead cost; while N3,442,615,300 was for capital expenditure.

He said “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 been during the budget defence and oversight visit.

“I wish to bring to your attention that aircraft maintenance which accounts for 46 percent of the overall budget proposal is an integral part of the overhead cost. Consequently, the shortfall of the overhead greatly affected aircraft maintenance activities in the fleet. 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.

“This committee may wish to note that the quality of aircraft maintenance conducted is directly proportional to flight safety and it 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.

“Permit me to also state that most of these debts are owned by service providers overseas. Considering that over 85 percent of the fleet expenditure is forex, the actual budget figure in dollars is further diminished.

“It is important to note 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.

“Additionally, the year 2023 is an election year which translates to more missions and space requests for the aircraft due to increased usage.”

Dari added that the fleet’s budget has been affected by the hike in the price of aviation fuel as the budget amount was insufficient.

According to him, some aircraft in the presidential fleet required compulsory refurbishment but the budget shortfall has prompted the repairs to be moved next maintenance year.

“The fleet is currently indebted to some of its service providers due to insufficient funding from the previous budgetary allocations and the situation makes it bad for planning.

“As stated earlier, we currently have to owe to carry out some mandatory upgrades on our aircraft so as to meet airworthiness requirements. In addition, some installations on our aircraft have again been moved to the year 2023 due to funds”, he said.

In his remarks, the Chairman of the House Committee, Hon. Sha’aban Sharada said the lawmakers were aware of the challenges faced by the presidential air fleet, promising to evolve measures to address them.

He said: “We are not unaware of the challenges that you face.

“In your earlier submission, that aeroplane maintenance accounts for 46 percent of your overhead cost. Thank you for carrying out your responsibilities with utmost patriotism and diligence despite the obvious constraint that confront you.

“The committee will do what it can to assist the fleet in addressing these challenges.”

The committee also visited the national intelligence agency (NIA) where it inspected the facilities in the complex.