When Minister of Defence, Dominic Nitiwul, appeared before Parliament to answer the issue of Presidential travels sometime last year, he disclosed that plans were afoot by government to acquire a new Presidential jet.
“The Ghana Air Force has indeed written to the Minister of Defence to secure for the use of government business the main aircraft for the communications squadron for the Ghana Air Force. Mr Speaker, consultations are ongoing with Government, Parliament, religious bodies and trade unions on the purchase of Ghana Air Force and Navy assets to enable the Ghana Armed Forces to efficiently defend our nation as expected,” the Minister announced on December 14, 2021.
Most media outlets subsequently reported that a presidential jet was what the Air Force was requesting for, but Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah says contrary to the reports, the Air Force had requested an Executive jet.
“I would reiterate the point made by the Minister of Defence had told Parliament and he was quite clear, that he had received a request from the Ghana Air Force to procure an Executive carrier, and he was even clear on that day that it was not a presidential jet, it was an Executive carrier that he had received a request for,” he said on Joy News’ ‘The Probe’ show that aired on Sunday, January 9, 2022.
Asked about the difference between the Executive and Presidential jet, he explained that the former had broad usage criteria whereas the Presidential jet was limited to the use of the President and or his Vice President.
“So for example, in America, they have the Air Force One which is the presidential jet, it carries the President and sometimes the Vice President. And no other persons are necessarily given access to that.
“The Ghana Air Force also operates an Executive carrier service for Executives, Speaker of Parliament, Ministers of State, VVIPs, other Heads of State that for some reason or the other may have to be brought into the Ghanaian jurisdiction.
“For that, they sometimes have an executive carrier which is used for that purpose, sometimes it can be reconfigured depending on the needs or whatever needs to be flown across.”
With the above explanation, he concluded thus: “The understanding we have is that that is what they have requested for, not an aircraft for the exclusive use of the president, that is what is referred to as a presidential jet.”
Back and forth on presidential travels
The subject of presidential travels has become topical in recent months with the North Tongu MP accusing government of spending on luxury at a time when the country is grappling with a pandemic and struggling economy hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Government last month, through the Director of Communications at the presidency, announced plans to buy a new presidential jet.
Whereas Defense Minister Dominic Nitiwul admits the current presidential jet, the Dassault Falcon 900 EXE, was functional, he added in a response to Parliament that it was not fit for purpose.
An aide to Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia, Gideon Boako, is on record as saying the President used the current jet for subregional travels and chartered jets for long haul travels, on advice of the National Security.