Kachikwu Flies Private Jet Used By Diezani, Buhari Had Criticised Reckless Spendings Of Previous Govt…

PUNCH Newspaper is reporting that top-rated Canadian-made private jets chartered regularly by the immediate past Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, are now being flown by the new Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, and the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele.

The development brings to question the new administration’s criticism of financial recklessness of the previous administration and its resolve to cut costs in the face of falling oil prices.

The Bombardier luxury private jets with cozy interior, flown by Kachikwu and Emefiele belong to VistaJet Holding SA, a Swiss charter airline that has satellite facilities in some countries of the world, including Nigeria.

Diezani had faced sharp criticism for chartering VistaJet’s private jets for several months and accumulating huge sums of bills that was almost half of the cost of a private jet.

The CBN, impeccable sources within the apex bank revealed, had also entered into a long-term and renewable contract with VistaJet.

The contract gives Emefiele unfettered access to one of VistaJet’s luxury planes any time of the day and for whatever number of hours.

According to top officials of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency working in the Air Traffic Control Towers in Lagos and Abuja airports, Emefiele has been flying regularly one of VistaJet’s private jets.

He has been sighted flying the Bombardier Challenger 850 flown by Diezani during the last administration.

According to unconfirmed sources, the CBN pays $1m to VistaJet a year for the use of any of its jets by the governor any time.

A top official of the CBN, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed to one of our correspondents that the apex bank and VistaJet had signed an agreement that allowed the governor to make use of any of the private jets on demand.

The central bank official, however, said the amount was not up to $1m a year, saying he neither had the details nor the terms of the contract.

The CBN source said, “The CBN entered the agreement because of flight delays and cancellations associated with domestic airlines. Because of the nature of the work of the CBN governor, he may be wanted at the Presidency or any other key place at any time. The only way he can meet up is to enter into this kind of arrangement. The frequent disappointments associated with local airlines may not allow this to happen. This is why we bought block hours from the firm.”

Asked why such an agreement was not signed with any of the local charter airlines, the official said, “This company, though a foreign one, has met all the requirements of the CBN. The apex bank also discovered that they will perform. I am sure if other local players met the requirements, they could have been considered.”

Although VistaJet planes fly customers to any part of the world, the CBN official said the agreement with the apex bank was limited to only domestic flights.

“The demand of the job at the CBN requires such an agreement. You can recall that during the military era, the CBN used to have a private jet of its own. But this time, we are not buying, it is just to buy block hours and this is limited to domestic flights,” the CBN official added.

The Acting Director, Corporate Communications, CBN, Mr. Isaac Okoroafor, had yet to respond to calls and text messages, seeking clarifications on the matter as of the time of filing this report.

The VistaJets’ representative in Nigeria could not be reached for comments. Calls and text messages sent to the official telephone lines did not go through.

Meanwhile, findings from NAMA Air Traffic Control Towers showed that one of the VistaJet private jets was flown by Emefiele and Kachikwu to the former’s mother burial in Delta State last week.

Sources said the petroleum minister and CBN governor flew the luxury plane to Delta.

VistaJet, which parades brand new Bombardier jets in its fleets, enjoys perhaps the highest patronage among the operators in the Nigerian charter airline business market.

The Swiss charter airline, which has over 50 luxury planes in its fleet, deployed five of them in Nigeria during peak seasons.

Other charter airline operators in Nigeria include the United Kingdom-based Hanger 8 Aviation, Nigerian-owned Top Brass Aviation, Skyjet Airlines, Jed Air, Overland Airways, SkyPower Express, Arik Air, King Air and Associated Airlines.

Findings showed that politicians and public office holders, who had ceased to fly private jets shortly after the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari, had started patronising charter airlines again.

The development puts under spotlight Buhari’s decision not to cut down the 11 aircraft currently in the Presidential Air Fleet.

The PAF is currently the second largest commercial airline in the country after Arik Air.

Apart from Arik, none of the other carriers including Dana Air, Medview Airlines, FirstNation, Azman Airlines, Air Peace, Overland Airways has over 11 aircraft in its fleet.

According to findings, the PAF include two Falcon 7X jets, two Falcon 900 jets, a Gulfstream 550, one Boeing 737 BBJ (Nigerian Air Force 001 or Eagle One), and a Gulfstream IVSP.

Others are one Gulfstream V, Cessna Citation 2 aircraft and Hawker Siddley 125-800 jet.

Each of the Falcon 7X jets was purchased in 2010 at a cost of $51.1m, while the Gulfstream 550 costs $53.3m.

The factory price of the other aircraft in the fleet could not be obtained online. However, airline CEOs put the average price of the Falcon 900 at $35m; Gulfstream IVSP, $40m; Gulfstream V, $45m; Boeing 737 BBJ, $58m; Cessna Citation, $7m; and Hawker Siddley 125-800, $15m.

This brings a combined estimated value of the PAF to $390.5m (N60.53bn). According to aviation experts, about 15 per cent of this amount is expected to be spent annually in maintaining these planes.

Nigeria happens to be one of the few countries in the world with a large PAF.

Most major countries in Europe and Asia maintain two aircraft in their PAF, according to Wikipedia.

Countries like Ghana, Algeria and a host of others in Europe maintain only one aircraft in their PAF.

When contacted, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation stated that it does not pay any kobo for the services rendered by VistaJet.

Its Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Mr. Garba Deen, told one of our correspondents that neither the ministry nor the national oil firm had spent a dime as payment for the services of VistaJet since the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Ibe Kachikwu, came on board.

He stated that the NNPC had about 60 per cent stake in various joint ventures, adding that the partners in the JV agreements were responsible for the payment of the services rendered by the private airline.

Deen also noted that the jet owned by the NNPC had issues and had been parked.

He said, “Since he (Kachikwu) became GMD, he has not spent any money on private jet. The NNPC jet has problems and I believe that it’s been moved to the villa. The VistaJet that we are using is owned by the companies with whom NNPC has joint venture agreements. And you know that the NNPC has about 60 per cent in its JVs.

“So since we have 60 per cent of the JVs, anything that has to do with the JV operations, including jets and so on, we are entitled to use it. Therefore, it does not cost NNPC a single kobo to use VistaJet that you mentioned.”

When asked to further explain the 60 per cent joint ventures which the NNPC has with other oil majors, Deen said, “We have JV agreements with oil majors and international oil companies, and I am going to be specific about only VistaJet. The companies with whom we have JV agreements are the ones paying VistaJet for we are entitled to use that facility because we contribute 60 per cent of the joint venture funding.

“VistaJet is part of the services that the joint venture operations entail. So NNPC does not pay, the Nigerian government does not pay N1 for the use of those VistaJet’s planes. It is part of the entitlement that we get as partners in the JV agreements.”

Deen stated that the entitlement of the NNPC had been available all the while but nobody exploited it until the present minister came on board.

“So in other words, the practice is saving Nigeria a lot of money by way of probably maintaining private jets or buying jets or even chartering planes in order to travel abroad.”

 

%d bloggers like this: