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Blackmail can’t stop new presidential jet approval – Senate

The Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, said on Thursday that the Presidency had not approached the National Assembly with a request for new presidential jets.

He, however, said should such a request be made, the Senate would approve it.

Akpabio said the National Assembly would not succumb to any kind of blackmail from social media.

According to him, there were claims making the rounds that the Senate had approved the purchase of new presidential jets for President Bola Tinubu when there was no such request before the lawmakers.

Speaking at the Red Chamber on Thursday, Akpabio said, “We care about the President and we care about the Nigerian people. We will approve things that will benefit the Nigerian people.

“We will approve things that would improve the living standard of the people. At the same time, we will also take cognizance of the duties of the President.

“If his vehicle is bad, we will repair the vehicle. If his plane is bad, we will approve money for the repair of the plane. So, that is not an issue. There is nothing before us. I don’t think you should worry about it.”

His Thursday comment comes only days after the Akpabio debunked certain media reports (not by The PUNCH) quoting him to have said the National Assembly approved new jets for the President to replace the old and faulty ones.

Last week, the President flew a private jet to South Africa to attend the inauguration of President Ramaphosa.

Recently, the Presidency and the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, traded words over alleged plans to buy new presidential jets.

While Obi described the alleged plan as insensitive, the Presidency wondered if he would have had the President die flying a faulty jet.

On Thursday, Akpabio said the National Assembly would not succumb to blackmail to shy away from doing the needful if the request for a new presidential jet comes before it.

The Senate President said, “Somebody called me from the BBC, that what I said in Senator Mongunu’s house was false and should be disregarded, that I was now saying that I would not approve.

“That is what you can call anticipated blackmail. The professors of the story know very well that maybe there is a problem with the presidential fleet and that where they will go to will be the parliament.

“And so they are now trying to do anticipated blackmail to tell us that ‘If they bring it, do not look into it’.

“So, I think that we should ignore them because of what we are doing here. I read the President’s correspondence to us, nothing was touching on a plane or no plane, but I can tell you that when you hear stories such as the death of the Vice President of Malawi as a result of a defective plane and then you hear stories such as the death of the President of Iran as a result of defective aircraft, we shouldn’t ever sit and allow such to be at the ocean. It wouldn’t be. The Senate is very responsible. The National Assembly is very responsible. We will look into issues that will benefit the governance of the country.”

He added, “Irrespective of anticipatory blackmail, because those people know very well that something like that might come in the future, and if it’s a necessity, the Senate will look into it. But there is nothing like that before us now.”

Akpabio expressed concern about fake stories on social media about him on the approval of the presidential aircraft.

“It’s not good for us to run the Senate by answering people in the social media because the social media is garbage in, garbage out.

“I was in Zanzibar attending inter-parliamentary union meetings when that information went out that the Senate President said he would approve a brand new plan for the President irrespective of whether they are suffering or not suffering.

“There was never a time such a statement came from me because I’ve never had any correspondence to approve a plane or not approve a plane and I did not want to answer, but they went to generate it and then they went around as if I was saying that I did not care about the Nigerian people.

“I did not do this. We care about the President and we care about the Nigerian people. We will approve things that will benefit the Nigerian people.”

Before Akpabio’s comment, the Senate leader had earlier raised the issue stating that some fifth columnists were dishing out propaganda to the public.

Bamidele said, “I say for the record, I believe that there is no request before this Senate as of yet. So there could not have even been a basis for us to debate whether we are going to approve or not.

“It has never been discussed either on the floor of this Senate or among individual senators or at the executive session. There is no such request. If the request comes, it’s not about Mister President of the Senate alone.

“It’s for 469 elected representatives of the Nigerian people to discuss and take the position – 360 in the House of Representatives, 109 in the Senate. But as we speak, Mr President, there’s no such request. And I just want all of us to be clear about this.”


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