Peter Obi, the Labour Party presidential candidate, criticized the Federal Government’s plan to acquire new aircraft for the presidential fleet, calling it insensitive amid the nation’s economic hardships. Obi argued that the decision was tone-deaf to the struggles faced by Nigerians due to government policies.

In a swift rebuttal, the Presidency labeled Obi’s remarks as insensitive, suggesting that his stance could endanger the President’s safety. Bayo Onanuga, Special Adviser to President Bola Tinubu on Information and Strategy, responded, “Does Peter Obi want the President dead? Is that his wish? Does he want him to continue moving around in a rickety plane and die like the VP of Malawi and Iran President? Let him tell us. This is a basic thing any sane government will do. You can’t toy with your President’s welfare.”

Onanuga explained that the current presidential aircraft, acquired during former President Obasanjo’s tenure over 20 years ago, is small and has recently experienced mechanical issues. He pointed out that the President had to travel on a commercial airline from Saudi Arabia to the UK due to these problems. The National Assembly had officially recommended replacing the outdated aircraft to ensure the President’s safety.

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The House of Representatives Committee on National Security and Intelligence recently urged the Federal Government to purchase new aircraft for President Bola Tinubu and Vice-President Kashim Shettima. This recommendation came shortly after three planes from the Presidential Air Fleet were earmarked for sale.

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Reacting on his X handle, Obi described the decision to buy new jets as unacceptable and a stark display of insensitivity to the plight of Nigerians. He emphasized that at a time when the country faces economic crises marked by hyperinflation, a falling currency, and widespread poverty, the government should prioritize the welfare of its citizens over luxury expenditures.

Obi stated, “This demonstrates extreme insensitivity to citizens’ struggles. With rising insecurity, poverty, hunger, and homelessness, this decision highlights the disconnect that is apparent between the government and the people. It is unacceptable as the situation in the country today more than ever demands a more compassionate use of resources, prioritizing citizens’ welfare.”

He noted that the presidential jets have an average age of 12 years and were purchased when most Nigerians could still afford basic necessities. He argued that the focus should be on alleviating the suffering of Nigerians and addressing the country’s significant challenges, including its high debt profile. Obi called for a halt to what he termed as “impunity, insensitivity, and shamelessness,” urging the government to prioritize education, healthcare, and poverty alleviation instead.

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