By Obinna Chima in Lagos and Chineme Okafor in Abuja
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has described the rumour making the rounds that its Governor, Mr. Godwin Ifeanyi Emefiele, the deputy governors and other principal officers move around in private chartered flights as false.
The apex bank also stressed that no private jet was used by Emefiele, his immediate family, or indeed other principal officers of the Bank during the burial of the governor’s mother in Delta state recently.
Also, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) last night said that it has not expended parts of its funds to charter private jets from any private airline company for its Group Managing Director (GMD) and Minister of State for the Petroleum Ministry, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu since he assumed duties at the corporation.
A statement from the central bank’s acting Director, Corporate Communications, CBN, Isaac Okorafor, yesterday explained that the apex bank, 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, it stated was in place long before the assumption of office of 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,” it added.
However, it pointed out that in 2015, in response to the economic downturn and the cost-cutting stance of government, Emefiele ordered the stoppage of the use of chartered flights by the Bank, saying that since then, neither Emefiele nor any of the deputy governors have used the services of private chartered flights, “and the CBN has not paid a kobo for private jet services.” “Mr. Emefiele and indeed other principal officers of the CBN have religiously maintained the modest disposition of using regular flights, including doing several trips by road to and from different parts of the country. For the avoidance of any doubt, it should be noted that Mr. Emefiele and his family flew a commercial Arik flight from Lagos to Benin for their mother’s burial.
“All accounts still point to the fact that Emefiele’s mother’s burial was a model in cost-cutting and an uncommon demonstration of his modest, ‘made in Nigeria’ philosophy,” the statement added.
The corporation noted in a statement from its Group General Manager, Public Affairs, Mr. Garuba Deen Mohammad in Abuja that its books are open for anyone to look into and ascertain its claims.
According to the corporation, Kachikwu’s preferred mode of travel has generally being by commercial airline, except where it is absolutely necessary to use charter flights.
It said it was responding to a newspaper report which said that Kachikwu was incurring expenses for it.
“The minister has in fact used his deep knowledge of the operations of the offshore companies to save money for the NNPC and the petroleum ministry by insisting that since the federal government, through the NNPC, contributes 60 per cent in the Joint Venture agreements it has entered into with international oil companies, then the NNPC is entitled to all facilities that are available as part of the operations of the Joint Venture Agreement.
“Naturally this includes the use of private jets where and when necessary which expenses are borne by the JV partners. It does not cost the NNPC a single Naira to enjoy this facility,” said the corporation.
It further said that: “It is necessary to add that since the grounding of the NNPC-owned private jet which has since 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.”
NNPC explained that what Kachikwu has done was to cancel existing contract with the jet company, Vistajets when he assumed office, and that he had by that measure saved the corporation monies.
“This is in keeping with the resolve of the current government to reduce cost and unnecessary expenditure. We deeply regret that we have to go this extra mile to correct the wrong impression needlessly created and sensationalised by the publication,” it added.
It further said: “The general public should disregard the veiled efforts by some vested interests to distract the Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government by attacking its principal officers.
“Such proxy attacks are unnecessary and unpatriotic. Once again we wish to remind Nigerians that the books of the NNPC are open to any member of the public that has followed the right channel to verify any such misleading report.”