When Defense Minister Dominic Nitiwul appeared before Parliament months ago on the subject of presidential jets, he referred to the president’s inability to take a shower aboard the current Dassault Falcon 900 EXE.
The comment went viral on social media and attempts by the Minister to claim he had been quoted out of context were roundly rejected.
The particular statement became the subject of political interpretation for weeks.
The comment has popped up again with reference being made to it by Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, whiles making his first public comments about the recent announcement that government was planning to get a new presidential jet.
“What is it that we hear because the president cannot bathe in the air, he should go and buy a presidential jet and therefore we should be interested in the comfort of the president when Ghanaians are reeling under economic hardships. Misplaced priorities, misplaced expenditure and therefore we should not support it,” he said in an interview on a local TV channel.
He blamed the government for lack of transparency on the issue of how much the presidential travels have cost the taxpayer. He admits, however, that such trips are necessary citing the specific case of United Nations General Assembly meeting.
He disclosed that the Minority – though yet to meet on the matter – fully backed public pronouncements of North Tongu MP and Ranking Member on Foreign Affairs, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, relative to the subject of presidential travels and the new jet.
“I think he is the Ranking Member for the Committee on Foreign Affairs and therefore he reflects our position on issues affecting the pursuit of foreign policy and diplomacy,” he told Citi TV’s Bernard Avle on the Point of View programme which aired on September 29.
“The caucus will meet as a matter of necessity… He (Ablakwa) is providing leadership as a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, he is monitoring every detail of the president. I don’t respond to individual positions on the matter, I’m to lead a collective and I will lead the collective,” Haruna noted.
On the substantive issue of the jet, Haruna joined persons opposed to the idea citing harsh economic realities which made the move a case of misplaced priorities and expenditure.
What Nitiwul said:
“This aircraft will carry a load of 11 passengers minus the crew. When this aircraft is travelling to the eastern part of the United States of America or Asia, it will not load a crew of more than eight plus the luggage.
“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,” he stated.
Government plans to purchase new jet
Speaking to the media on Monday, September 27, at the Jubilee House, the Director of Communications at the Presidency, Eugene Arhin hinted: “Government is already in the process of acquiring a bigger jet for use.
“The Minister of Defence has made it clear that the government has decided to buy a bigger jet to save us from all these troubles. I wouldn’t want to go into details. I am sure when the Minister of Defence has the opportunity he will do that.”