President Goodluck Jonathan had boarded the presidential aircraft, NAF001 (5N-FGT), to Minna for a unity rally of the north-central zone of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and had arrived in Minna airport after the rally to proceed to Sokoto when it was discovered that the plane was faulty.
LEADERSHIP gathered that the president arrived in the airport from the venue of the rally at Minna Trade Fair Complex and went into a short closed-door meeting with some PDP governors who followed him to the airport while other members of his entourage were already in the plane before the crew members discovered the fault.
It was learnt that the members of his entourage who had already got in were asked to disembark and an arrangement was made for the president to use the vice president's aircraft.
By protocol, the president and the vice president do not board the same aircraft, hence Vice President Namadi Sambo had to give up his lesser presidential aircraft.
Consequently, the vice president left with the aircraft of Senate president David Mark who, by his position as the most senior political officeholder from the north-central, was around to host the president at the rally with some selected senators of PDP from the zone.
It was learnt that what the crew members thought was a minor problem that bordered on the digital settings of the plane and had tried to hide it from the prying eyes of the public and journalists turned out to be a major problem that engineers were called in from Abuja to help fix the aircraft.
Experts in aviation have found it difficult to understand why a high-profile aircraft in the presidential fleet could develop such fault despite the huge budgetary allocations to the fleet.
In the 2014 budget now in the National Assembly, about N5 billion has been allocated for the presidential fleet with N2.6 billion to train the personnel and N1.5 billion for maintenance of the fleet.
A check also revealed that, in the 2013 fiscal year, N7.5 billion was also allocated for the presidential fleet whereas in 2012 N16.8 billion was allocated for a new presidential aircraft.