Garba Shehu, senior special assistant to the president on media and publicity, says the criticisms about the retention of a presidential jet in London is informed by a lack of understanding of protocol around foreign trips by heads of state.
On May 7, President Muhammadu Buhari went to London on an indefinite medical trip.
Some opponents of the current administration have alleged that Nigeria has been incurring a huge cost as a result of the presidential jet parked at an airport in London.
But in a statement on Thursday, Shehu dismissed the argument, saying world leaders get waivers when their jets are parked in foreign airports.
Shehu wondered why the Buhari government, which he considered as being modest, has been subjected to attacks when “leaders who in the past travelled with three Nigerian aircraft did not suffer this trenchant criticism”.
“The presidency is constrained to decry criticisms, mostly on social media, on the retention in London of the presidential aircraft, NAF 001 as mostly informed by lack of understanding of protocol around foreign trips by heads of state all over the world,” the statement read.
“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.
“From the 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.
“We have also read claims about outrageous fees allegedly paid by Nigeria. 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.
“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.”
Shehu said Buhari is not the first to enjoy such privilege and would not be the last.
He accused critics of the current administration of trying to derail government’s “big plans” for the country.
“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,” he said.
“All past heads of this country have had this privilege.
“We appeal to Nigerians to ignore 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.
“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.
“The Buhari administration certainly deserves a chance.”