Gov puts up private jet for public use over N4bn cost of maintenance

The Akwa Ibom State governor, Umo Eno has converted the state-owned private jet, which was purchased when Nigeria Senate President, Senator Godwill Akpabio was governor of the State, citing rising N4 billon (Four Billion Naira) cost of maintenance per annum.

The approach which seeks to drastically cut governance costs and prioritize public well-being, was in response to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s recent call for prudent fiscal measures.

Umo said in his Facebook page on Sunday that the decision was reached during extensive State Executive Council (SEC) meeting, Governor Eno gave Prince Enobong Uwah, the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) through an Executive Order (EO) to commercialize the private jet.

Eno quoted the State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Iniobong Ememobong as saying that that the move was deemed essential to optimize the utilization of the jet in more financially viable and lucrative ventures.

He said, “in a discussion with a top official in the aviation sector ”it is not far from the truth that with fueling, crew salaries and allowances, insurance premium, parking fees, maintenance and other incidental costs, the government spends about N300 million a month (about N4 billion per year) to keep the aircraft. The costs keep rising as the aircraft ages”.

“This decision is predicated on the need for a drastic reduction in the cost of governance, the volatile exchange rate, and the corresponding increase in the cost of maintenance of the private jet. While the aircraft will remain the state’s asset, it will be put to more lucrative use.”

“The aircraft, acquired in 2012 during Gov. Godswill Akpabio’s administration for approximately $50 million (covering the aircraft, avionics, and other installations), was justified by Akpabio for convenient travel despite the existence of the state’s airport and multiple operating airlines. Akpabio utilized the aircraft for three years; his successor for eight years, and Pastor Umo Eno for only a few months.

“During Gov. Udom Emmanuel’s tenure, the aircraft experienced intense usage, including a nationwide tour during his presidential campaign, and was occasionally lent to other PDP politicians, resulting in its rapid depreciation. Gov. Udom Emmanuel practically made the aircraft his second home, expressing a strong affinity for the bird.

“Governor Umo Eno will not encounter challenges commuting in and out of the state, given that Ibom Air currently operates eight aircraft (with an additional eight to be delivered soon). With eight to twelve daily flights connecting Uyo to Lagos and Abuja, the governor may face some inconveniences flying commercially, but the cost savings are justified.

“Leadership demands sacrifices, and public service can be demanding. In the past, Chief Obafemi Awolowo advised politicians not to indulge in government luxuries beyond their personal means. Gov. Eno has displayed remarkable courage, humility, and pragmatism in his decision.

Prior to Eno’s decision, the Akwa Ibom State government had been maintaining an executive jet for the use of the Governor. However, the cost of maintaining and operating the jet was a source of contention for many citizens, who argued that the money could be better spent on other priorities such as agriculture, education and healthcare.

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