President Muhammadu Buhari has restricted the use of aircraft in the presidential fleet by his wife, Hajiya Aisha, and relations.
It was learnt that some members of the First Family will now use commercial flight, unless it becomes compelling for them to fly in presidential aircraft.
Apart from saving cost, the President is said to be determined to prevent abuse of the presidential fleet.
To set example for others, the President made sure that his wife and three children performedUmrah (Lesser Hajj) to Makkah through Emirates Airline.
They also came back with the same airline.
Besides the tough measure on aircraft, the President is yet to make up his mind on whether or not his wife should be addressed as the First Lady. Hajiya Aisha Buhari is known and addressed as the “wife of the President”.
The President was worried by the security reports on high cost of maintaining the presidential aircraft and abuse by some highly-placed Nigerians, The Nation learnt.
During the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, about N9.08billion was spent yearly to maintain the 10 aircraft in the Presidential Air Fleet (PAF).
The aircraft are two Falcon 7X jets, two Falcon 900 jets, Gulf stream 550, one Boeing 737 BBJ (Nigerian Air Force 001 or Eagle One) and Gulf Stream IVSP.
Others are one Gulf Stream V, Cessna Citation 2 aircraft and a Hawker Siddley 125-800 jet.
A source said: “President Buhari has adopted a strict policy on the use of presidential aircraft in order to save cost. His wife and relations have been restricted from the use of the aircraft in the presidential fleet.
“A situation where the aircraft were used anyhow by some friends, associates of the President during the administration of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan can no longer be applicable in this dispensation.
“For example, the wife of the President, Hajiya Aisha Buhari and three children travelled for lesserHajj in Saudi Arabia on Emirates Airline.
“Buhari is determined to ensure the judicious use of the presidential aircraft to save cost. He is also setting a new template for governance. Do not be surprised if you see the President using commercial flights.”
Another source said: “Do you know that it costs about N747 million to fuel the aircraft in the presidential fleet per annum. President Buhari said his administration cannot afford such a luxury.”
“The US President, Barrack Obama uses only two Boeing jets and one helicopter. So, Buhari is determined to cut cost. In any case, he lives an austere life. If he can ask his wife to fly a commercial jet, then other public officers must emulate his standard.”
It was not immediately clear if the President will sell some of the aircraft in the Presidential Air Fleet as being speculated.
The Senior Special Assistant on Media to the President, Mallam Garba Shehu, on June 19, said he was not aware of such a plan.
The President is yet to make up his mind on whether or not his wife should be addressed as the First Lady.
A source said: “I think the President does not want the Office of the First Lady hijacked by vested interests as the case between 2010 and 2015 when Jonathan was in charge.
“So far, Hajiya Aisha Buhari is known and addressed as the ‘Wife of the President’.”
When contacted, the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, said: “I didn’t ask the President why he let her go on Emirates. But given the tone of his leadership, I will, however, say with all confidence that he is, by doing that, sending an important message to the country.”