Speaker Alban Bagbin has said the question filed by North Tongu MP Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa about the cost of President Nana Akufo-Addo’s recent 9-day international trip on a chartered flight, will definitely be answered, denying media reports that he had rejected the question.
Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta appealed to the house for more time to collate his figures on the trip when he appeared in Parliament on Thursday, 17 June 2021.
Denying claims that he had rejected the question, Mr Bagbin said in the house that: “Let me disagree with what has been put on social media that the honourable speaker rejected the questions”.
“There is no iota of truth in that publication”.
“The questions were admitted and forwarded to the ministers and the ministers have indicated to me their readiness to come and answer the questions, so, it will be no problem”.
“The business committee should do the right thing and get them programmed for the minister to come and answer.”
Mr Ablakwa also denied the media reports.
“Kindly disregard and treat with contempt the fake news in circulation, claiming that the Rt. Honourable Speaker has rejected my urgent questions to the Defence and Minister of Finance on the state of the presidential jet and the total cost of President Akufo-Addo’s recent profligate luxury travels to France, Belgium and South Africa, respectively.”
Meanwhile, Defence Minister Dominic Nitiwul has he intends to petition the National Media Commission in connection with an attribution made to him by the media, in relation to a story about the presidential jet which, in his view, was calculated mischief.
According to him, the reports by the media that he had said President Nana Akufo-Addo could not shower in the Falcon, and, thus, it was not fit for his international travels, were wrong, since, they were couched out of wrong inferences from his comments on the floor of Parliament.
“I said ‘no president can shower in this aircraft’. I never said Akufo-Addo or John Mahama or Kufuor”, Mr Nitiwul explained to Paul Adom-Otchere on Metro TV’s Good Evening Ghana programme on Thursday, 17 June 2021.
“In fact, three presidents have used this aircraft – Mills, Mahama and Akufo-Addo”, he noted.
“I was very amazed they [media] chose to say: ‘Akufo-Addo cannot shower in it’” he noted.
“Why didn’t they say ‘John Mahama could not shower in it’? Why didn’t they say ‘President Mills could not shower in it’? Why didn’t they say that? That’s why I said it was pure mischief”, he stressed.
In his answer to parliament on Wednesday, 16 June 2021, the Bimbilla MP said: “This aircraft will carry a load of 11 persons minus the crew. When this aircraft is travelling to the eastern part of the USA or Asia, it will not load a crew of more than eight plus the luggage”.
“So, it depends on where it is going”, he noted.
Secondly, he added, “I have also said the aircraft has to do refuelling stops and, also, in this COVID-19 [era], when you are travelling to multiple destinations like the president’s recent travels, the Falcon couldn’t have been taken because he would have had to do technical stops, which are not desirable”.
“And when he is travelling with more than 20 people like he has been doing for business trips that brought huge sums of money to this country, he will need more than just a Falcon, otherwise, the others would have to go a day ahead before the president to prepare themselves.”
“In fact, the president would also have to go a day ahead because no president can shower in this aircraft. He cannot move from this aircraft straight into a meeting”, Mr Nitiwul said.
In the heat of the controversy, the Minority in Parliament said President Akufo-Addo could have used Ghana’s “airworthy” presidential jet, Falcon 9Gexe, instead of chartering the £15,000-per-hour “lavish, ostentatious and extravagant” AJC320neo flight he recently used for his 9-day trip abroad that cumulatively cost the Ghanaian taxpayer £345,000 (GHS2,828,432.80). “Today, we want to present to you further evidence that we are definitely certain that the presidential jet is available, in good shape”, Mr Ablakwa told journalists on Friday, 28 May 2021.
According to him, on 11 May 2021 – five days ahead of his 9-day trip – the president used the presidential jet to Uganda to attend the ceremony swearing-in of President-elect Yoweri Museveni.
Denying claims that the Falcon cannot travel long hours without refueling, Mr Ablakwa said the president’s Uganda trip on the presidential jet was 5h:4m while his Paris trip took six-and-a-half hours.
“The Minority insists that the Falcon could have been used”, Mr Ablakwa stressed. “One, the Falcon is airworthy and it took this same president to Uganda only a few days prior to the 16th of May when the president departed to Paris with this rather luxurious monster; the most outstanding, extravagant, luxurious airbus aircraft to be manufactured – the Airbus AJC320neo, which originally was manufactured to take 150 people at the minimum but it has been reconfigured to take only 17 people so a luxurious empire can be created”, he said.
In the Minority’s view, instead of the president using the chartered flight, which has a master bedroom, an en-suite bathroom with showers, dining facilities for all 17 passengers and sophisticated IT connectivity installations, he could have opted for other chartered flights from the same company, Acropolis Aviation.
“First of all, our contention is that the Falcon is available”, he stressed, emphasising: “It’s airworthy”.
“If it can take you to Uganda safely, it can take you to Paris safely and Brussels, Belgium safely”, he argued. “So, the point we are trying to emphasise is that in this time of austerity, where the president himself has said: Times are rough; let’s bear with him’, … the president himself embarked on this trip to go and beg for debt forgiveness and this is how you go and beg for debt forgiveness when the person you are going to beg for debt forgiveness from doesn’t travel in such luxury, in such ostentation”, noting: “The level of extravagance, the extreme opulence that the president displayed is condemnable, unconscionable”.
“How do you think these western leaders will perceive African leaders? No wonder they have very little respect for a lot of our leaders but we cannot continue this way”, Mr Ablakwa said