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Chartered Flight Takes Tinubu, Ministers To Saudi Arabia As Presidential Jet ‘Breaks Down’

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Breaking: President Tinubu Departs For Qatar (Video)

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s recent trip to an economic summit in Saudi Arabia was allegedly marred by a series of aircraft mishaps, forcing him to rely on commercial aviation operators and charter jets to reach his destination.

The president’s main luxury jet, a Boeing 737 business jet class operated by the Nigerian Air Force 001, has been under maintenance for several weeks, while a second aircraft developed technical issues, including an oxygen leak, in the Netherlands, according to Peoples Gazette.

As a result, President Tinubu and his delegation had to leave behind the Nigerian government aircraft and use a charter jet company to facilitate their onward journey to Saudi Arabia for the World Economic Forum in Riyadh.

The president and some of his aides traveled on a Falcon 8X 9H-GRC private jet, while others, including ministers and high-ranking officials, used separate support aircraft and commercial airlines.

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This incident is not the first for the presidential air fleet, which has been plagued by maintenance issues and repairs over the years. According to records, the Boeing 737 has been taken for extensive repairs at least seven times over the past three years, with over $8 million spent fixing the plane since December 2022 alone.

The presidential air fleet has a long history of reliability issues, with the current Boeing 737 business jet class operated by the Nigerian Air Force 001 being one of the oldest in the fleet. The plane was ordered by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and delivered on April 14, 2005. It has served all Nigerian presidents in the uninterrupted Fourth Republic, earning a reputation as one of the most iconic features of the Nigerian presidency.

However, the plane’s age and frequent breakdowns have raised concerns among officials and aviation experts. In February 2019, former Vice President Yemi Osinbajo survived a crash while traveling on a chartered helicopter for a scheduled campaign event. Although the report of a formal investigation into the crash was never made public, initial questions were raised about the helicopter’s operators’ poor maintenance culture.

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Since then, concerns have simmered among officials, with many calling for the replacement of the aging planes. “Many of us in this administration are more concerned about the clear danger that the planes are signaling than any ridicule from their frequent breakdowns,” an official said. “We are being told that the planes are old and there should be serious consideration towards their replacement.”

The incident has also sparked debate about the cost of maintaining the presidential air fleet. With over $8 million spent on repairs since December 2022 alone, many are questioning whether it is worth the expense. “It’s a significant amount for a country of 230 million with an unenviable reputation as the world’s poverty capital,” said an aviation expert told Peoples Gazette. “The money could be better spent on other crucial areas of economic development.”

In the meantime, President Tinubu and his delegation have arrived in Saudi Arabia for the World Economic Forum, where they will engage in economic and diplomatic discussions with world leaders.

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George Oshogwe Ogbolu is a Digital Media Strategist | Content Writer | Journalist | New Media Influencer | Proofreader and Editor at Naija News.