By SWA Investigations
Nigeria may have unexpectedly arrived at a crossroad over rejection of provision of N5.09 billion for Presidential Yacht in the 2023 Supplementary Appropriation.
The House of Representatives had, in the just passed 2023 Supplementary budget, struck out the provision for the Yacht and channelled the fund to the budget of students’ loans.
But Security Watch Africa (SWA) Investigations showed that the Presidential Yacht which was ordered by former President Muhammadu Buhari for Nigeria in the year 2022 had arrived the country since June this year 2023 and in the Nigerian Navy Apapa fleet.
SWA also uncovered that payment had already been approved for the Presidential Yacht and what was rejected by the Lawmakers was towards settling its total price, which would cater for the payment for spare parts, training, etc.
Firstly, looking back at the history of Nigeria before the administration of former President Buhari, budgetary provisions have been made for Presidential Yacht by some of the past administrations.
The first Presidential Yacht was NNS (Nigerian Navy Ship) RUWAN YARO, which later served as a training ship for cadets and midshipmen.
Later, Nigeria had NNS AMARYA, which served the ceremonial purpose as well as being a training ship. It was recovered from a former governor of the then Rivers State, now King Alfred Diette-Spiff, and handed over to the Navy.
The vessel was used extensively by various Presidents starting from Alhaji Shehu Shagari, while the Military President Ibrahim Babangida sailed with the vessel to Benin Republic to attend an ECOWAS meeting in the 1980s.
The last President to use the vessel was former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who hosted visiting Presidents on the vessel in Lagos State.
So, over the years, the Presidential Yacht has not been a luxury per se, but a multipurpose vessel used for ceremonial events, training, and patrols.
During the preparation for the 2023 Presidential Fleet Review, it was planned that former President Buhari embark on the Yacht to review the Nigerian Navy fleet, but she did not arrive before the event.
But SWA Investigation revealed that the Nigerian Navy had to prepare NNS SOKOTO with bullet-proof features to carry out the task of embarking former President Buhari because the new Yacht arrived post Fleet Review.
The decision to purchase this particular Presidential Yacht actually started in 2018, when the then Prince Charles of Wales (now King Charles) visited Nigeria.
When the Prince/visitor requested to be taken to sea, former President Buhari was told that the former Presidential Yachts had been decommissioned as both RUWAN YARO and AMARIYA were grounded after years of disrepair.
That information made former President Buhari direct the Nigerian Navy to source for options, which resulted in the delivery of the new Presidential Yacht.
While the Lawmakers’ increased budgetary provision for students` loans should be welcomed by every Nigerian that has the interest of Nigerian youths at heart, there is need to give the issue of the Presidential Yacht its right of place for National pride and prestige to the Nation as a Littoral State and regional power.
The measure taken by the Lawmakers on the Yacht would have been faultless and appropriate if it was a fresh business proposal without any commitment by Nigeria and the Yacht supplier.