The Nigerian government has handed over two AgustaWestland AW101 VIP helicopters to the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) in an effort to reduce expenditure. This comes after two VIP jets were put up for sale.
The aircraft were handed over on 10 October in a ceremony attended by Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal Sadique Abubakar, who said that one of the helicopters will be configured and deployed as an air ambulance, while the second will be used to transport troops. “The two helicopters will be immediately reconfigured and deployed to the Northeast for the use of Nigerian troops,” he said.
The two aircraft were acquired by the Nigerian government on 20 October 2014 and 21 May 2015, according to the Nigerian Presidency Office of Digital Engagement (PODE). Nigeria’s AW101s were originally two of 12 destined for the Indian Air Force but diverted to Nigeria after the contract with India was cancelled over bribery and corruption allegations.
The PODE said the AW101 handover was the second since Buhari took office, with the first in 2015. National Security Advisor Babagana Monguno said one A109 helicopter and one King Air from the VIP airlift fleet had been handed over to the Air Force. Nigeria had approximately ten aircraft in its VIP airlift fleet.
The transfer of the helicopters comes shortly after the Nigerian government announced on 4 October that it was selling two VIP jets. The aircraft up for sale are a Dassault Falcon 7X and a Hawker 4000.
“This is in line with the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari that aircraft in the Presidential air fleet be reduced to cut down on waste,” said Garba Shehu, senior special assistant to the President on Media and Publicity. Shehu at the beginning of this month said the process is by no means complete and other aircraft will be handed over to the Air Force.