Defence Minister, Dominic Nitiwul has said he intends to petition the National Media Commission in connection with an attribution made to him by the media, in relation to a story about the presidential jet which, in his view, was calculated mischief.
According to him, the reports by the media that he had said President Nana Akufo-Addo could not shower in the Falcon, and, thus, it was not fit for his international travels, were wrong, since, they were couched out of wrong inferences from his comments on the floor of Parliament.
“I said ‘no President can shower in this aircraft’. I never said Akufo-Addo or John Mahama or Kufuor”, Mr. Nitiwul explained to Paul Adom-Otchere on Metro TV’s Good Evening Ghana program on Thursday, June 17, 2021.
“In fact, three presidents have used this aircraft – Mills, Mahama, and Akufo-Addo”, he noted.
“I was very amazed they [media] chose to say: ‘Akufo-Addo cannot shower in it’” he noted.
“Why didn’t they say ‘John Mahama could not shower in it? Why didn’t they say ‘President Mills could not shower in it? Why didn’t they say that? That’s why I said it was pure mischief”, he stressed.
Meanwhile, North Tongu MP Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa has said it is “very surprising” that Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta is “asking Parliament for more time to respond to my urgent question on the full cost of President Akufo-Addo’s recent luxury travels to France, Belgium, and South Africa”.
According to him, “the question had been advertised in the Provisional Order Paper for a response today [Thursday, June 17, 2021]”.
“This is terribly disappointing after his Ministry has had more than a two-week notice to prepare an answer for Parliament and the people of Ghana”.
“Sad day for accountability and good governance”, the opposition lawmaker wrote on Facebook.
Mr. Nitiwul answered his part of the question on Wednesday, June 16, 2021, on the floor of Parliament.
He said Ghana’s presidential jet is not fit for purpose, thus, the president’s resort to chartering a private jet.
The Bimbilla MP said: “This aircraft will carry a load of 11 persons minus the crew. When this aircraft is traveling to the eastern part of the USA or Asia, it will not load a crew of more than eight plus the luggage”.
“So, it depends on where it is going”, he noted.
Secondly, he added, “I have also said the aircraft has to do refueling stops and, also, in this COVID-19 [era], when you are traveling to multiple destinations like the president’s recent travels, the Falcon couldn’t have been taken because he would have had to do technical stops, which are not desirable”.
“And when he is traveling with more than 20 people like he has been doing for business trips that brought huge sums of money to this country, he will need more than just a Falcon, otherwise, the others would have to go a day ahead before the president to prepare themselves.”
“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”, Mr. Nitiwul said.
The question was filed by North Tongu MP Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, who had, a few weeks ago, accused the President of spending GHS 2.8 million on his recent trips to South Africa and France on a private jet.
In the heat of the controversy, the Minority in Parliament said President Akufo-Addo could have used Ghana’s “airworthy” presidential jet, Falcon 9Gexe, instead of chartering the £15,000-per-hour “lavish, ostentatious and extravagant” AJC320neo flight he recently used for his 9-day trip abroad that cumulatively cost the Ghanaian taxpayer £345,000 (GHS2,828,432.80).
“Today, we want to present to you further evidence that we are definitely certain that the presidential jet is available, in good shape”, Mr. Ablakwa told journalists on Friday, May 28, 2021.
According to him, on May 11, 2021 – five days ahead of his 9-day trip – the president used the presidential jet to Uganda to attend the ceremonial swearing-in of President-elect Yoweri Museveni.
Denying claims that the Falcon cannot travel long hours without refueling, Mr. Ablakwa said the president’s Uganda trip on the presidential jet was 5h:4m while his Paris trip took six-and-a-half hours.
“The Minority insists that the Falcon could have been used”, Mr. Ablakwa stressed.
“One, the Falcon is airworthy and it took this same president to Uganda only a few days prior to the 16th of May when the president departed to Paris with this rather luxurious monster; the most outstanding, extravagant, luxurious airbus aircraft to be manufactured – the Airbus AJC320neo, which originally was manufactured to take 150 people at the minimum but it has been reconfigured to take only 17 people so a luxurious empire can be created”, he said.
In the Minority’s view, instead of the president using the chartered flight, which has a master bedroom, an en-suite bathroom with showers, dining facilities for all 17 passengers, and sophisticated IT connectivity installations, he could have opted for other chartered flights from the same company, Acropolis Aviation.
“First of all, our contention is that the Falcon is available”, he stressed, emphasizing: “It’s airworthy”.
“If it can take you to Uganda safely, it can take you to Paris safely and Brussels, Belgium safely”, he argued.
“So, the point we are trying to emphasize is that in this time of austerity, where the president himself has said: Times are rough; let’s bear with him’, … the president himself embarked on this trip to go and beg for debt forgiveness and this is how you go and beg for debt forgiveness when the person you are going to beg for debt forgiveness from doesn’t travel in such luxury, in such ostentation”, noting: “The level of extravagance, the extreme opulence that the president displayed is condemnable, unconscionable”.
“How do you think these western leaders will perceive African leaders? No wonder they have very little respect for a lot of our leaders but we cannot continue this way”, Mr. Ablakwa said.