Human rights lawyer and activist, Femi Falana, has asked Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to stop members of his family from using aircraft in the presidential fleet for private activities.
Falana, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said the use of aircraft in the presidential fleet by members of the first family for private events is absolutely against the law.
Hanan Buhari, the president’s daughter, had flown in a presidential jet to Bauchi on Thursday for a private function.
While many Nigerians vehemently condemned the action, the presidency defended it.
According to Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman, it is normal practice for the president’s family to use the presidential aircraft.
“The normal practice in existence for a long time is that the presidential air fleet is available to the president and the first family and four others. These four are the vice-president, the senate president the speaker and any other person authorised by the president,” Shehu had said.
Falana, however in a statement on Sunday, said there is no such practice, and that the “official policy” of the federal government “does not authorise the children of the President to use the presidential jets to attend to private social functions”.
“In fact, there is no precedent whatsoever for such privatisation of the presidency of Nigeria,” Falana added.
He said Buhari had promised to reduce the cost of maintaining aircraft in the presidential fleet, which according to him, stands at N8.5 billion in the 2020 budget.
“The so called ‘normal practice’ of using the aircraft in the presidential fleet by members of the first family to attend to private engagements is not backed by any extant law or official policy,” he said.
“In view of the foregoing, we call on President Buhari to stop the members of his family from using any of the aircraft in the presidential fleet “with a view to cutting down on waste”.
“A country that is said to be the headquarters of the greatest number of poverty stricken people in the world cannot afford to waste billions of Naira on the use of presidential aircraft and hiring of commercial jets by state governors that are owing workers several months of unpaid salaries.”