The two presidential aircraft, a Falcon 7X executive jet and Hawker 4000, that were advertised for sale in October 2016, have yet to be sold almost 16 months after, sources learnt.

It was further learnt that the decision of the preferred bidders for the two jets to renege on their bid prices was largely responsible for the delay in the sales of the aircraft.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, told our correspondent in an interview with our correspondent on Friday that the bid amounts agreed to be paid by the two preferred bidders for the two aircraft stood at $24m, which was the projected sales figures.

He said, unfortunately, the winners of the bids, whose identities he did not disclose, reneged when they were asked to come and pay.

He said they came up with a new figure of $11m for the two jets. While describing the preferred bidders’ attitude as absurd, the presidential spokesman said under the present administration, no one would be allowed to take a public asset and run away for nothing.

Notwithstanding the development, he said the Presidency was still determined to sell the jets, adding that they were still available for serious buyers.

Shehu said, “The Presidency is still determined to carry out President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive that the presidential air fleet should be reduced, so the process to trade the Falcon 7X (5N-FGU) and Hawker 4000 (5N-FGX) to anyone interested is still ongoing.

“What happened over this period of time is that the preferred bidders, who emerged at the open and transparent process, refused to come forward with the payments.

“The one who came closest to the reserved price of $22m for the Falcon won with an offer of $21m. “The Hawker had a reserved price of $2m but the winner offered a higher bid of $3m.

“As you can see, the bid amounts put together promised to return the projected sales figure of $24m.

“Unfortunately, they both reneged when asked to come forward with payments. The winner of the Falcon offer said they had only $10m and the others who came for the Hawker said they could only pay $1m.

“Now, that, to say the least, is completely absurd. They probably thought there was desperation here or some sort of deal could be cut in line with old practices in government.

“This is a Buhari administration. Nobody will take public assets and run away for nothing. “So the aircraft are still there for any serious buyers.”

On whether the aircraft are still being used by the Presidency while awaiting the conclusion of their sale, a Presidency source explained to our correspondent that only one of the two aircraft offered for sale is currently not in use.

He claimed that while the Falcon is not idle, the Hawker is no longer in use anywhere in the world. The source said, “I think the Falcon is being used, it is not idle. But the Hawker is no longer in use anywhere in the world and the spare parts are not being manufactured anywhere.

“This is not a Nigerian problem; most countries of the world have stopped that type of aircraft from flying. That’s why it’s being offered for about $2m.

“Even if you buy that aircraft, maybe you can just fly it to your country in cargo or so to be cannibalised because other countries will not accept it.

“I believe that one is on the ground but the Falcon is not idle.” Newspaper advertisements on the sales of the jet were published in October 2016.

Shehu had in a statement made available to journalists said the decision to sell the jets was in line with the directive of the President that the aircraft in the Presidential Air Fleet be reduced to cut down on waste.

“When he campaigned to be President, the then APC candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, if you recall, promised to look at the Presidential Air Fleet with a view to cutting down on waste.

“His directive to a government committee on this assignment is that he liked to see a compact and reliable aircraft for the safe airlift of the President, the Vice President and other government officials that go on special missions,” he had said.

The Presidency had said the PAF had 10 aircraft at the inception of this administration in 2015.

These are Boeing Business Jet (Boeing 737-800 or AirForce One), one Gulfstream 550, one Gulfstream V (Gulfstream 500), two Falcons 7X, one Hawker Sidley 4000, two AgustaWestland AW 139 helicopters and two AgustaWestland AW 101 helicopters.

Some of the jets in the fleet have since been handed over to the Nigerian Air Force to boost its operations.

According to the details of the 2018 Appropriation Bill currently before the National Assembly, the Federal Government will spend N1.4bn on the maintenance of presidential jets this year as captured in the budget of the PAF-State House.

The PAF will also spend N398m on aviation fuel; N196m to overhaul the landing gear of Presidential BBJ Aircraft while N222m will be spent to overhaul the engines of Falcon 7X (5N-FGV).

Also, N375m will be spent to install new cabin management system on GV (5N-FGS) while N350m will be spent to comply with mandatory upgrades on PAF aircraft.

Another N240m will be spent on compliance with the mandatory upgrade and installation of Internet service on G550 (5N-FGW) and another N200m for the mandatory upgrade and installation of live TV and Internet service on BBJ (5N-FGT).