Nigerian Paper slams Nigerian govt for profligacy

A Nigeria newspaper on Tuesday described as a sign of fiscal recklessness the decision by the Nigerian government to send a presidential jet to ferry Malawi President Joyce Banda to Abuja, the Nigerian capital, last month.

President Banda was in Nigeria to deliver the keynote address at the Global Power Women Network Africa summit in the nation’s capital at the invitation of Nigeria’s First Lady, and the plane flew her round trip from Lilongwe to Abuja.

‘It was lost on President Goodluck Jonathan that while Banda had sold her cash-strapped country’s only presidential jet to save costs, he has, in three years in office, expanded Nigeria’s executive fleet to 10 aircraft,’ the Punch newspaper wrote in a stinging editorial on Tuesday.

The paper said while President Banda sold her country’s sole presidential plane and a fleet of 35 luxury cars reserved for the President and her cabinet, in view of the state of her country’s economy, her Nigerian counterpart is planning to increase the number of planes in the presidential fleet from 10 to 12.

‘Neither the reality of over 60 per cent of the population living in poverty, nor the recent alarming revelation by the Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, that government’s revenue inflow had dwindled to a dangerous level, has persuaded Jonathan to pare down the size of the Presidential Air Fleet.

‘Instead, it is projected to rise as provision has reportedly been made to purchase two additional helicopters to ensure the President, Vice-President, their families, and other top functionaries travel in luxury at public expense,’ the paper wrote.

It compared Nigeria’s huge presidential fleet with those of many countries that have better Gross Domestic Product and per capital income than Nigeria, and concluded that ‘it is high time we ended this absurdity.’

‘Japan, with its Gross Domestic Product of US$4.52 trillion and per capita income of US$36,200, (at Purchasing Power Parity), has only two aircraft – Boeing 747 – 400 – for use of the prime minister and the emperor; the Netherlands, with GDP of US$770.2 billion and PCI of US$42,300, has two; the British Queen, Elizabeth II, and Cameron travel on chartered British Airways flights, despite their country’s US$2.32 trillion GDP and PCI of US$38,700; South Africa has just one presidential aircraft with its GDP of US$678.6 billion and PCI of US$11,300, though it expects another soon,’ Punch wrote.

‘Jonathan has no excuse to continue keeping 10 aircraft and our under-performing legislators have no reason to keep approving new purchases or the billions of naira they appropriate for their maintenance each year. But, ultimately, it is only when the electorate shakes off its lethargy and demands accountability and responsibility from public officials that things will change for the better,’ the paper added.

PANA reports that in one of the many comments that were elicited by the editorial, one commentator, who identified himself/herself simply as ‘Adesola’, wrote on the official website of the paper: ‘It’s just a pity that many are living in poverty while few are swimming in affluence even in the midst of common wealth.

‘It is high time the masses (took) the bull by the horn, fight for their right by demanding for accountability and responsibility from their wasteful and fiscal reckless leaders!’

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