The Presidential Air Fleet (PAF) said its budgetary allocation in the past years is insufficient to fund the operations fleet.
The Commander of the fleet, AVM Abubakar Abdullahi told members of the House of Representatives Committee on National Security and Intelligence during an oversight visit in Abuja.
Represented by Fleet Operations Officer, Mr. Ahmed Dari, Abdulahi said that the quality of aircraft maintenance conducted is directly proportional to flight safety and it is critical to the importance of safe operations in the fleet.
“It is important for this committee to note that for successive years, the fleet has been grossly underfunded which has made it difficult to operate. From the fleet records, debts from preceding years are usually carried over to the following year and this has become the tradition.
“Permit me to also state that most of these debts are owned by service providers overseas. Considering that over 85 percent of the fleet expenditure is forex, the actual budget figure in dollars is further diminished.
“It is important to note that the average age of the presidential air fleet aircraft is 11 years and in aviation, maintenance increases proportionately with the age of the aircraft.
“Based on the fleet experience, the cost of maintaining each aircraft ranges between 1.5 million dollars to 4.5 million dollars depending on the level of maintenance.
“Additionally, the year 2023 is an election year which translates to more missions and space requests for the aircraft due to increased usage,” he said.
Speaking on budgetary allocations, Abdullahi said in 2021, the fleet submitted a total budget of N18.76 billion.
According to him, only N12.55 billion was approved in the Appropriation Act and as of December 2021, only the sum of N10.90 billion was released.
Abdullahi said in 2022, the fleet proposed the sum of N19.47 billion but N12.47 billion was approved in the national budget.
The officer explained that the total releases to the fleet as of November 2022 was N11.13 billion which represents 98.07 percent of the total fund approved.
Given the breakdown of the releases, he said that 99.83 percent is for personnel cost, 94 percent for overhead, and 99.99 per cent of capital expenditures.
Speaking on the 2023 proposals, Abdullahi said that the fleet requires the sum of N15.52 billion of which N438.57 million is for personnel cost; N11.64 billion is for overhead cost; while N3.44 billion for capital expenditures.
“Please note that the shortfall in the overhead cost usually affects aircraft maintenance activities in the fleet.
“The inadequacy of this provision was brought to the attention of the respected committee as it has always during the budget defense and oversight visit,” he said.
“I wish to bring to your attention that aircraft maintenance which accounts for 46 percent of the overall budget proposal is an integral part of the overhead cost.
“Consequently, the shortfall of the overhead greatly affected aircraft maintenance activities in the fleet.
“Some mandatory upgrades were carried out on a credit basis on the fleet’s longstanding relationship with maintenance companies while others have been moved to the year 2023 budget,” he said.
Abdullahi said the fleet’s budget has been affected by the hike in the price of aviation fuel as the budget amount was insufficient.
According to him, some aircraft in the presidential fleet require compulsory refurbishment but the budget shortfall has prompted the repairs to be moved next maintenance year.
“The fleet is currently indebted to some of its service providers due to insufficient funding from the previous budgetary allocations and the situation makes it bad for planning,” he said.
“As stated earlier, we currently have to owe to carry out some mandatory upgrades on our aircraft so as to meet airworthiness requirements. In addition, some installations on our aircraft have again been moved to the year 2023 due to funds,” he said.
The Chairman of the visiting committee, Rep. Sha’aban Sharada (APC-Kano) said the lawmakers are aware of the constraints faced by the agency.
The lawmaker said that the committee will do all that is possible to address the challenges and ensure more funds for the agency.
“We are not unaware of the challenges that you face; in your earlier submission, that aeroplane maintenance accounts for 46 percent of your overhead cost.
“Thank you for carrying out your responsibilities with utmost patriotism and diligence despite the obvious constraint that confront you.
“The committee will do what it can to assist the fleet in addressing these challenges,” he said.