The Presidency on Thursday struggled to explain the retention of the Presidential Aircraft, NAF 001 in London despite the attendant high fees.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu said in a statement, made available to journalists, in Abuja on Thursday that the plane is still parked in London due to protocol, national security, diplomacy and prestige.
Mr. Buhari’s media aide was reacting to reports on the social media over an outrageous fee such parking of the aircraft since May 10 when Buhari embarked on his second medical vacation will attract.
According to Mr. Shehu, there is no world leader who travels abroad and is left without plans for immediate return or possible evacuation. But he failed to realize that the case of Buhari was not a normal travel with a fixed return date. World leaders always know their return date. Besides, Nigeria is not a world leader. It still remains a country in Africa, where 20% of the population go to bed on empty stomach.
In any case Shehu said, “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.
“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 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.”
Remarkably, he sought to refute the parking fees being reported, saying presidential aircrafts enjoy waivers worldwide. But interestingly he added that where a waiver is not granted, such fees do not exceed £1,000.