The Defence Minister, has revealed that the Ghana Airforce is requesting for a multi-functional aircraft to add to its inventory as a requisite command and control asset for the comfort of President Akufo-Addo like a Japanese Emperor or an Arabian King.
“The Ghana Airforce of Ghana is once again requesting for a multi-functional aircraft to add to its inventory as a requisite command and control asset, to be able to connect Ghana’s National Security to diplomacy,” Dominic Aduna Bingab Nitiwul, said on the floor of Parliament.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Finance, Kenneth Ofori-Atta, yesterday, asked for a rescheduling of the question of Samuel Okudeto Ablakwa on the cost of the President’s recent trip to France, Belgium and South Africa in a rented aircraft.
The question was filed by a Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, who considers the move by the President as “obscene profligacy”.
The Defense Minister whose Constituency, Bimbilla is rated one of the poorest constituencies in the country with water and other basic amenities difficulty to come by made the revelation last Wednesday, while answering questions about the cost of renting a presidential jet for President Akufo-Addo’s recent trip to Europe, on Wednesday, June 16.
He created the impression that President Akufo-Addo carts bulk cash into Ghana whenever he travels, hence needed a more spacious aircraft. This he explained is because the present Falcon presidential jet aside being airworthy, lacked certain facilities like a washroom and it could contain less of the President’s entourage.
“This aircraft will carry a load of 11 passengers minus the crew. When this aircraft is travelling to the eastern part of the United States of America or Asia, it will not load a crew of more than eight plus the luggage. In fact, the President would also have to go a day ahead because no president can shower in this aircraft. He cannot move from this aircraft straight into a meeting,” he stated.
Mr Nitiwul, has debunked reports that President Akufo-Addo, wanted to take his shower that is why the country decided to hire the luxurious £15,000 per hour private jet for his recent trip abroad.
According to him, the G-Kelt aircraft was hired for the President to travel in because of his safety and that of his crew because the Presidential jet recently had some challenges.
The Defence Minister, came under attack when he told Parliamentarians that the presidential jet was not conducive and presented many challenges when the President was embarking on his 10-day foreign travel. This was after Mr Nitiwul justified the president’s decision to rent a luxurious aircraft for use two weeks ago on a Europe and Africa tour at the cost of over GHC2.6 million.
The Bimbila lawmaker, said the capacity of the falcon presidential aircraft can no longer carry the president’s entourage without refueling.
“The decision to travel particularly to long and multiple destinations such as the president travelling to France, Belgium, South African and back to Ghana especially during this covid time will always require a larger capacity aircraft such as a DBKJ or an aircraft ATJ 319 even when the Falcon is air ready,” he said.
North Tongu Member of Parliament (MP) Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, has raised issues with claims that the cost of renting a presidential jet for President Akufo-Addo’s trips doesn’t matter.
But reacting to the comment in a tweet, Mr Ablakwa said “After listening to Hon. Nitiwul, we now know at the very least that the Presidential Jet is in great condition & was available for President Akufo-Addo’s trip to France, Belgium & South Africa except that it wasn’t luxurious enough compared to the £15,000 an hour Airbus ACJ320neo “How on Earth can the Defence Minister tell Parliament cost doesn’t matter in considering which aircraft to charter for the President! We are really doomed!”
Mr Ablakwa accused President Akufo-Addo of engaging in extravagant travels.
He alleged that Mr Akufo-Addo, spent an amount of GHS 2.8 million on his recent travels to only South Africa and France using the services of a private jet.
“The Airbus ACJ320neo owned by Acropolis Aviation based in Farnborough, UK and registered as G-KELT, is the most luxurious and the most expensive in the Acropolis fleet. The manufacturers describe it as the most outstanding ambassador for Airbus Corporate Jets.” It costs the Ghanaian taxpayer approximately £15,000 an hour when President Akufo-Addo rents it”, he alleged in a post on Facebook.
Let’s further analyze President Akufo-Addo’s latest trip to Europe: per Flightradar24, the G-KELT aircraft left Accra with the President to Paris on the 16th of May – a 6 and half hour duration. Airlifted the President from Paris to Johannesburg for 11 hours on the 23rd of May.”
“Then Johannesburg to Accra on the 25th of May was a five and half hour flight. This gives us accumulated flight travel of 23 hours; so at £15,000 an hour, it thus cost us a colossal £345,000. At the current exchange rate, that is a staggering GHS2, 828,432.80”, he posted.
Yesterday on Joy FM, Nitiwul charged “What we looked at was the safety of the passengers and the crew, not the amount involved in it. That is the first thing we look out for before we look at other factors. It doesn’t mean we don’t look at the amount but what we look at first is the safety of passengers. When it comes to the choice of the President’s travel, it is a schedule. It is determined by two groups of people; National Security and the Ministry of Foreign affairs.
Also, in this COVID era, when you are travelling to multiple destinations like the President’s recent trip, the Falcon jet couldn’t have been taken because we would have had to do technical stuff which is not desirable. When he is travelling with more than 20 people like he has been doing that has brought huge sums of money to this country, the President may need not just the Falcon.
At no point did I ever say that President Akufo-Addo, cannot shower that is why he used the G-Kelt aircraft.
He stated that the decision was taken by the government in order not to incur any additional costs if the presidential jet had been used because the team that travelled with the President would have been flown earlier and camped at a hotel which would come at a cost before the President arrives.
“I said that when a President has to travel like that it is unwise to use a small aircraft because the entire team has to travel two or three days before to wait for the President. The hotel bills alone cumulatively add up to the state and it is more expensive,” Dominic Nitiwul explained further.
Yesterday, Mr Ofori-Atta was supposed to come to the House to answer the question, it was missing from the day’s order paper contrary to its advertisement on Wednesday.
Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament Andrew Asiamah Amoako, who chaired proceedings, was told the matter came up during the discussion of the business of the day earlier and the Finance Minister requested a rescheduling of the question.
“So, Honorable Ablakwa I will persuade you that the question will be rescheduled and the Minister of Finance will come and respond to it, Mr Speaker,” Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu assured.