The Presidency has reacted to criticism of the decision to keep the Presidential Aircraft, NAF 001, in Britain since May 7 when President Muhammadu Buhari flew to London for a medical follow-up.
The move had attracted criticism with some reports claiming it was costing the nation millions.
But the Presidency said in a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, that the criticism, “mostly on social media”, is as result of lack of an understanding of protocols.
“It is important to state that for reasons of protocol, national security, diplomacy and prestige, there is no world leader who travels abroad and is left without plans for immediate return or possible evacuation,” the statement read in part.
“From an operational point of view, this country’s Armed Forces as represented by the Nigeria Air Force are not to abandon their Commander-In-Chief in whichever circumstance he is. This is a standard operating procedure.”
On the cost of the retention of the plane in London, the Presidency said it is not true that Nigeria is paying an outrageous amount.
“The published amounts are totally untrue. Aircraft conveying heads of state all over the world usually enjoy waivers even where payments for parking are differentiated by aircraft categories,” it said.
“We have been assured that where the waiver is not granted, payment will not exceed £1,000, which is a quarter of the amount being peddled.”
It added that other world leaders that have had aircraft waiting for them for periods did not attract criticism.
“For the avoidance of doubt, this President is not the first to have a presidential aircraft standing by for him, as he will certainly not be the last,” the Presidency said.
“All past Heads of this country have had this privilege, and the part that surprises the most is that leaders who in the past travelled with three Nigerian aircraft did not suffer this trenchant criticism.”
The Presidency called on Nigerians to ignore the claims, and the “opposition campaign aimed at derailing this administration’s big plans for the country”.
“This is a government that is constructing the Second Niger Bridge, the Mambila Power Plant, the East-West and the North-South standard gauge railway lines,” it added.
“We are a government that has saved this country an annual loss of two trillion naira from fraudulent petroleum subsidy schemes by influential citizens and their children, and rid the public service of about 50,000 ghost workers.”