A report by Daily Trust indicates that the funding of the trips of the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo to states for his presidential campaigns ahead of the primary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has continued to attract mixed reactions in the polity.
Telescope.ng reports that Osinbajo, one of the 23 aspirants eyeing the ticket of the ruling party has gone to 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), to woo delegates and other stakeholders of the APC ahead of the presidential primary slated for May 29 and 30.
The newspaper had reported how nine serving governors, who are also aspiring for the presidency have spent millions of naira to charter private jets to move around the country.
The vice president, who declared for the presidential race on April 11, has been going about to meet delegates using the 16-seater presidential jet across the country.
The Boeing 727-2N6 with registration no. 5N-FGN aircraft was used to Maiduguri, Borno State on Monday as part of his consultation.
It was not clear from which airport Osinbajo left for Maiduguri, a flight from Abuja to the Borno State capital, which is 710km takes about one hour and 10 minutes on the Boeing Jet used by the vice-president.
The aircraft consumes at least 4,500 litres per hour of flight. As at today, a litre of aviation fuel known as Jet A1, which has been on a steady increase in recent times, presently costs between N550 and N600 depending on the location.
For instance, at the cost of N600 per litre, it implies that it would be costing the federal government about N2.7m to fuel the aircraft on each one-way trip embarked upon by the president and over N5m for a return trip.
Aside from the use of a presidential jet, it was gathered that the vice president also travelled with a retinue of aides tagged Protocol, Security and Press (PSP).
Daily Trust reports that the vice president by virtue of his office as number two citizen travels with a retinue of aides drawn from different departments including the protocol, security, and media among others who are officially entitled to Duty Tour Allowance (DTA) of about N12,000 per day after each trip.
A source in the presidency told this paper that no fewer than 40 members of the PSP are on the entourage of the vice president.
Asked who pays the aides their Duty Tour Allowance (DTA), the source, who is familiar with the workings of the presidency, said they are being paid from the government coffers.
A source reportedly said: “You need to understand this, he is not an appointee, he was elected together with the president. He is eligible for all the entitlements of his office as the vice president.
“Who else will pay for their allowance? They are attached to the office of the vice president and as such, they will draw their allowances from the coffers.”
But the report noted that another source said the allowances of aides on the vice president’s team are not being paid from the government coffers.
The source noted: “Osinbajo was conscious of the implication of using the government’s fund to finance his campaign trips, hence he has been using donations from his movement and friends to fund his campaigns.”
Use of presidential jet paid for in US – Aviation analyst
Aviation analyst, Group Capt. John Ojikutu said Nigerian leaders are thoughtless in the use of public facilities.
He said in the US, any unofficial use of the presidential jet is paid for.
In a chat with our correspondent, he said, “In the US, unofficial use of the presidential jet is paid for; the cost is the fare of a business class for each person on board including the media personnel.
“Trump would rather use his personal aircraft to go to Palm Beach in Miami on holidays when he was president. Unfortunately, our leaders in the administration of our government are reckless in the use of our public facilities including the use of security personnel.”
Our correspondents report that President Muhammadu Buhari also used Presidential Jet during his 2015 re-election campaign.
Speaking on the issue, an associate Professor of Political Sociology, University of Abuja, Abubakar Umar Kari, told the newspaper that the use of state resources by government officials for campaigns was an act of corruption.
He said: “Government officials using state resources for political campaigns were morally reprehensible, legally unjustifiable and logically unacceptable. It is an act of corruption and a clear abuse of office. No impunity is greater.
“In saner climes, it is enough to put the offending officer in trouble – and that’s how it ought to be here.
“It’s regrettable that our moral and political values are so low and so loose that we do not even seem to realise that such a thing is wrong. Beyond being a misnomer, it also confers an unfair advantage on the officer over and above his opponents who are not so opportune.
“It personalises things that are public and makes strictly the property of the state to become or be used as booty by virtue of being in power or in office. But let’s face it: Osinbajo is not alone in this. Everyone from the president to councillor, and even their wives, children and friends, are engaged in it.”
However, some lawyers who spoke to Daily Trust said that Osinbajo’s use of official jets, vehicles and other facilities for his 2023 presidential campaigns has not breached any law, but could pose some moral issues.
Speaking on the matter, Paul Ananaba (SAN) said it is not illegal because even the American president and vice president use their official vehicles while going for campaigns.
“Their securities are not bifurcated because they are now going for campaigns. The Airforce One is what they use. So, those are part of the appurtenances of democracy. So, there is nothing wrong with that,” he said.
However, E.M.D. Umukoro Esq said although there is no law specifically prohibiting a sitting vice president from the use of public resources for campaigns, moral questions are bound to be raised.
He, therefore, called for inclusion into the statutes a law prohibiting the use of government jets, vehicles and others for campaigns.
“Unless there is a law that specifically puts that into contemplation, issues about it cannot be raised. Whether we like it or not, it gives the person an edge. It’s just like the president or governor seeking a second term using state apparatus and machinery.
“People need to raise this and when it is raised, we begin to look at the state and federal level and streamline it. This is why they talk about the power of incumbency,” he said.