Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, in a statement issued in Abuja on Thursday, said such criticisms were mostly informed by lack of understanding of protocol around foreign trips by Heads of State all over the world.
According to the presidential aide, 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.
He also dismissed as false and totally untrue the claims about outrageous fees allegedly being paid by Nigeria for the retention of the aircraft in London.
“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.
We have also read claims about outrageous fees allegedly being paid by Nigeria. The published amounts are totally untrue.
Aircraft conveying heads of states all over the world usually enjoy waivers even where payments for parking are differentiated by aircraft categories.
We have been assured that where the waiver is not granted, payment will not exceed 1,000 pounds, which is a quarter of the amount being peddled.
For the avoidance of doubt, this President is not the first to have a presidential aircraft standing by for him, as he will certainly not be the last.
All past heads of this country have had this privilege, and the part that surprises the most is that leaders who in the past travelled with three Nigerian aircraft did not suffer this trenchant criticism,” Shehu said.
Shehu, therefore, appealed to Nigerians to ignore opposition campaign aimed at derailing the Buhari administration’s “big plans for the country’’.
“This is a government that is constructing the Second Niger Bridge, the Mambila Power Plant, the East-West and the North-South standard gauge railway lines. We are a government that has saved this country an annual loss of two trillion Naira from fraudulent petroleum subsidy schemes by influential citizens and their children.”
Shehu also disclosed that the government had successfully purged the public service of about 50,000 ghost workers, adding that “the Buhari administration certainly deserves a chance.”