Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, says the children of the President have no right to convert the Presidential jet to personal use.
He, therefore, berated the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, for saying by tradition all members of the first family have the right to use the Presidential jet for private engagements.
Buhari’s daughter, Hanan, had come under fire for using the Presidential jet to attend an event in Bauchi State last week where she was invited to take pictures and make a catalogue of Bauchi arts and culture as part of her pet project.
The President’s spokesman had in reaction to criticisms, 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.”
In a statement on Sunday, however, Falana described the use of the President jet for personal use as an abuse of office.
The activist said, “With respect, the statement credited to the Presidency is incorrect as it is at variance with the official policy of the Federal Government. In other words, the official policy does not authorise the children of the President to use the Presidential jets to attend to private social functions.
“In fact, there is no precedent whatsoever for such privatisation of the presidency of Nigeria. Having publicly declared that his administration would maintain ‘a compact and reliable aircraft for the safe airlift of the President, the Vice-President and other government officials that go on special missions’ President Buhari is stopped from allowing members of the first family to use the jets for their private affairs.”
The senior advocate asked the Presidency to apologise to Nigerians rather than justify the act.
He reminded Buhari that Nigeria, which is the poverty capital of the world, cannot continue wasting over N8bn yearly on maintaining Presidential jets.
Falana asked the President to honour his pledge to reduce the cost of governance and reduce the number of planes in the Presidential fleet.
He state, “In view of the foregoing, we call on President Buhari to stop the members of his family from using any of the aircraft in the presidential fleet with a view to cutting down on waste. A country that is said to be the headquarters of the greatest number of poverty-stricken people in the world cannot afford to waste billions of naira on the use of Presidential aircraft and hiring of commercial jets by state governors that are owing workers several months of unpaid salaries.”