ABUJA (Reuters) - The cost of keeping a Nigerian presidential jet at a London airport while President Muhammadu Buhari is in Britain on medical leave will not exceed $1,300, his spokesman said on Thursday, denying media reports of much higher costs.
The 74-year-old president, whose ailment has not been disclosed, travelled to Britain on May 7 and has not been seen in public since, stirring speculation about his condition.
Buhari took office in May 2015 after an election in which he vowed to crack down on corruption and mismanagement of public funds that have seen a rich elite benefit from the OPEC member’s oil wealth while most Nigerians live on less than $2 a day.
Responding to press and social media criticism about the cost of keeping Buhari’s plane at a London airport while is in Britain, his spokesman Garba Shehu said reports of “outrageous fees allegedly paid by Nigeria (are) totally untrue”.
“Aircraft conveying heads of state all over the world usually enjoy waivers even where payments for parking are differentiated by aircraft categories,” Shehu said in an emailed statement.
“We been assured that where the waiver is not granted, payment will not exceed 1,000 pounds (sterling), which is a quarter of the amount being peddled,” he added. Shehu did not disclose the name of the London airport.
Last year two of Nigeria’s 10 presidential jets were put up for sale as part of a cost-cutting campaign. Africa’s largest economy is in its first recession in 25 years, mostly caused by low oil prices.
Earlier this week Buhari delivered an audio message to mark the Islamic Eid al-Fitr holiday. It was his first public statement since May 7.
He put his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, in temporary charge of N Nigeria when he left for Britain.
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Reporting by Felix Onuah; writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; editing by Mark Heinrich