A debate has been raging on social media following the decision of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to allow his daughter, Hanan Buhari, to use the presidential jet.
This is despite complaints by Nigerians that the budget of N8.5bn for the presidential aircraft fleet in the 2020 budget is too high.
Hanan, according to Daily Nigerian, was flown to Bauchi for a durbar on Thursday by the presidential jet.
Buhari’s daughter, who recently graduated with a first-class in photography from Ravensbourne University, London, was said to have been invited by the Emir of Bauchi, Rilwanu Adamu, as a special guest of honour.
In photographs which have since gone viral on social media, Hanan could be seen disembarking from the plane and being welcomed by Bauchi State officials.
It was learnt that the durbar was specially organised to avail the President’s daughter of the opportunity to take photographs of the traditional durbar, Bauchi architecture and other cultural sites in the state.
As a professional photographer, Miss Buhari is expected to document her experiences in pictorial form in her gallery.
The incident has since sparked a debate on social media.
Pro-transparency activist, Inibehe Effiong, described the use of the presidential jet Hanan as an abuse of office and a waste of taxpayers’ money.
Buhari is only fooling himself and his supporters with this fake integrity,” he said.
Some Buhari supporters, however, said there was nothing wrong with the President allowing his daughter to use the presidential jet.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, defended Hanan’s action
According to him, she received approval from her father to be flown in the aircraft, who in turn informed the National Security Adviser.
Shehu said, “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(s) authorised by the President.
However, former Special Adviser to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo on Political Matters, Akin Osuntokun, disagreed with the Presidency that Buhari’s children had the right to use the presidential jet.
He said, “The President’s children have no right to the presidential jet. Whoever said they had such power is not telling the truth.
In fact, in many advanced countries today, the leaders are not allowed to use presidential jets for private matters and in some instances they pay the government whenever they do such.
Prince Harry who is a member of the British Royal family has been travelling recently and has never used government aircraft.
The Peoples Democratic Party accused Buhari of abusing his office for allowing her daughter to be flown in the presidential jet.
The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement said the President’s decision had confirmed the alleged recklessness in the Presidency.
Ologbondiyan said, “It is even most appalling that instead of apologising to Nigerians, the Presidency, in its arrogance, is resorting to falsehood and trying to justify the inexcusable.
Our party holds that Mr President should apologise for approving that her daughter use the presidential jet just for the purpose of allegedly taking photographs in a durbar in Bauchi State.
He added, “The rules do not grant the President any powers to transfer any paraphernalia of office or privileges of his position to any of his children.
The Presidency’s defence is therefore a direct spat on millions of Nigerians who cannot freely ply our highways because Mr President and his party the APC, have failed to fix and rid our roads of kidnappers and bandits, who have practically taken over major routes under their despicable watch.
It was reports that by convention, only the President, first lady, Vice-President, Senate President, Speaker, Chief Justice of Nigeria, ex-presidents and a presidential delegation are allowed to use the presidential jet.
Recall Buhari before becoming President criticised past governments for misusing public funds.
The All Progressives Congress had promised to sell off some of the jets in the presidential fleet due to high maintenance cost.
However, only two helicopters out of the fleet of 10 were donated to the Nigerian Air Force while the two presidential aircraft, a Falcon 7X executive jet and Hawker 4000, that were advertised for sale in October 2016, had yet to be sold as of 2018.