Nigeria’s Presidential Jet Could Be Seized by Foreign Creditors

How do you repossess a presidential air fleet if they owe you millions in maintenance?

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The President of Nigeria disembarking from the country's Boeing Business Jet
How do you repo a plane from a sovereign entity with a military?
Photo: Audu Ali Marte / AFP (Getty Images)

Nigeria’s Presidential Air Fleet could be a risk of being seized by foreign creditors. Punch NG is reporting that the executive air transport unit currently owes service providers for airworthiness upgrades made for the aircraft. Lawmakers also haven’t allocated the unit a high enough budget to receive scheduled updates to maintain airworthiness. As a consequence, service had been postponed to prevent the aircraft from being impounded. The situation has raised questions on whether foreign entities can seize government-owned planes, or whether they are immune as diplomatic property.

The Presidential Air Fleet (PAF) serves the same purpose as the government aircraft of other countries. The unit is meant to provide safe transport for the President, Vice President and other officials in the Nigerian government. There are currently ten aircraft in the fleet: four AgustaWestland helicopters, two Gulfstream business jets, two Dassault Falcon 7Xs business jets and a Boeing Business Jet (737-800).

The President Air Fleet requested $10.1 million for maintenance in 2023, but it only received $3.3 million from Nigeria’s National Assembly. Air Vice Marshal Abubakar Abdullahi, PAF Commander, explained in a defense budget committee hearing that several factors set his requested amount. The average age of the fleet’s aircraft is 11 years, slightly skewed younger by two new helicopters delivered last year. He reasoned that the older planes made maintenance more expensive. Abdullahi noted that his unit will be expected to conduct more missions than usual in 2023 as it is an election year in Nigeria.

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Abdullahi also noted:

“The consequences of underfunding the fleet could have adverse effects on safety operations. It may also lead to our nation being embarrassed in the international community either through seizure of the PAF aircraft at foreign airports or maintenance facilities. Moreover, other states may deny the PAF aircraft necessary over-flight permits for foreign missions.

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Punch NG mentioned that Muhammadu Buhari, the President of Nigeria, had promised to reduce the size of the Presidential Air Fleet. Over the eight years of Buhari’s presidency, the PAF’s budget has increased by 121 percent. With the Nigerian presidency being limited to two four-year terms, Buhari won’t be running for a third term. Also, an easy solution to pay off the debt and reduce the PAF’s size would be to sell out some of the aircraft.