The Central Bank of Nigeria on Saturday said it suspended charter flight agreement with VistaJet, a Swiss charter airline in Nigeria and other countries, in 2015 following President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration resolve to cut costs.
It said since last year, the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, had stopped flying VistaJet’s Bombardier luxury private jets.
SATURDAY PUNCH had reported how Emefiele and Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr. Ibe Kachikwu, had at various times flown VistaJet’s upscale private jets and flown in it to the burial of Emefiele’s mother in Delta State.
The immediate past Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, had been severely criticised during the past administration for chartering Vistajet’s private jets for several months, and accumulating huge sums of bills that could almost reach half of the amount a private jet is sold.
Kachikwu on Saturday also said he cancelled the about N600m monthly contract which the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation had with VistaJet.
The NNPC stated that Kachikwu terminated the contract with VistaJet when he assumed office.
Although Kachikwu through the NNPC admitted to using Vistajet’s private jets, he said the bill was being paid by the International Oil Companies under their joint venture agreement with the NNPC.
The CBN, in a statement by its Acting Director, Corporate Communications, Mr. Isaac Okoroafor, on Saturday said, “However in 2015, in response to the economic downturn and the cost-cutting stance of the Federal Government, Mr. Emefiele ordered the stoppage of the use of chartered flights by the central bank. Since then, neither Mr. Emefiele nor any of the deputy governors had used the services of private chartered flights and the CBN has not paid a kobo for private jet services.”
It added, “The CBN has, for several years in the past, used private and official chartered flights in making urgent travels to meet needs in remote, not-easily- accessible locations or in cases where timing might be critical to matters of urgent national importance.
“This practice was in place long before the assumption of office of the current Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele. In fact it is on record that the past two CBN Governors actively used chartered private jet services to meet urgent national assignments.
“Indeed, in recognition of this critical need in its smooth operations, the CBN had in the 1990s acquired a dedicated jet for this purpose and for urgent currency movement. This was, however, taken over by the military administration when there was a more urgent need for it at the State House.
“Thereafter, the CBN occasionally used the chartered services of private operators and those of the Presidential Fleet when available, both of which were paid for.”
NNPC on Saturday also said the cancellation was due to the fact that Nigeria spends $3m every month as a result of the contract.
It said, “Since the grounding of the NNPC-owned private jet which has been handed over to the Presidential fleet as scrap, Kachikwu has resisted every pressure to procure and maintain another private jet for the NNPC.
“And even though it is a standard practice in the oil and gas industry, the minister has refused to retain the services of any private jet company.
“What Kachikwu has done in fact was to cancel an existing contract with VistaJet which he found on assumption of office and which was costing the country $3m every month. By this, Kachikwu has saved the country expenditure that would have run into hundreds of millions of United States dollars.”
The statement added that the minister had insisted that since the Federal Government, through the NNPC, contributed 60 per cent in the Joint Venture agreements it entered into with international oil companies, then the corporation was entitled to all facilities that were available as part of the operations of the JV agreements.
SOURCE: Punch Newspaper