The minority National Democratic Congress (NDC) parliamentary caucus has vehemently opposed the proposed purchase of new aircraft for the Ghana Air Force at this time.
At a hurriedly organised press conference in Parliament House yesterday, the minority described “the whole arrangement as being unconstitutional, lacking clarity and being insensitive to the real needs of he country”.
Minority leader and MP for Nadowli West, Alban Bagbin, who made the party's position known, called on other Ghanaians especially journalists and civil society organizations to oppose the purchase of the aircraft as “a constitutional duty and a national commitment”.
Even though rumours were rife that the minority side would definitely oppose the purchase, yesterday's press conference, on the eve of Parliament's rising, put the matter to rest as the minority unequivocally made its position known.
Parliament has currently been called upon to approve the purchase of a 1 unit ACJ ER Corporate Jet from Airbus industry at $62 million and another 1 unit Falcon 900 Ex Easy aircraft from Dassault Aviation SA at the cost of $43.15 million.
The minority leader, surrounded by his members including former MP, Squadron Leader Clend Sowu and former Deputy Defence Minister Tony Aidoo, challenged government's position that the planes' acquisition was in “pursuit of the Ghana Armed Forces five-year strategic development plan 2005-2010.”
He said “it is important to emphasise from the beginning that the minority in Parliament has no objection in principle to the re-equipping of the Ghana Air Force with aircraft.
“Indeed, we have approved a number of facilities to equip the Ghana Air Force as will be shown soon.”
According to him, what the party was against was “the acquisition of the two luxury aircraft for presidential comfort.”
Hon. Bagbin argued that concerning the 30-seater airbus, which is to cost the nation $62 million, “there is no evidence of any foreign loan contracted to finance the purchase.”
The implication of that, the minority leader said, was that Ghana would be saddled with $62 million debt without any clue as to the source of the repayment. “It is also instructive to note that while sales contract on Falcon has been put before Parliament, this is not the case with regard to the airbus.”
Hon. Bagbin condemned what he termed the “nauseating” and “politically disingenuous manner in which the New Patriotic Party government has handled this whole affair.
“It is ironic that the same people who raised objections in 1999 on the NDC acquisition of the Gulf Stream 111 on grounds of misplaced priority are today asking Parliament and the nation to approve the acquisition of two luxurious presidential aircraft whose costs are exorbitantly higher than that of the Gulf Stream 111.”
He said the quality of lives of most Ghanaians nowadays was so poor that there was the urgent need to focus more attention on essential things rather than the purchase of two “luxury” presidential jets.
Water, he noted, was so unimaginably scarce in the country. “Many workers particularly teachers, the youth in menial engagement and railway employees are not paid because of lack of funds.
“Students are charged exorbitant fees because government cannot shoulder the cost of education. Yet the same government can commit a colossal amount of $105,150,000 to buy two luxurious presidential jets for the comfort of a president,” he said.
By Sylvanus Nana Kumi