The Federal Government today at the weekly cabinet meeting approved the purchase of three new presidential jets, at a cost of $150 million. They will comprise two Falcon 7X aircraft from France’s Dassault Aviation, and one Gulfstream G550 from the United States.

The curious decision to go shopping for additional presidential aircraft comes on the heels of another, by the Minister of Finance, to increase Nigeria’s debt profile dramatically by borrowing $4 billion from international creditors.

The new jets would be added to the presidential fleet, which was previously described as being too large by former president Olusegun Obasanjo. He took the opportunity of that assessment to sell off some of the jets to his friends and cronies.

Obasanjo had earlier in his administration purchased two jets, one of them a Boeing Business Jet (BBJ). The other, a Gulfstream G550, was allocated to the office of the Vice President. When reporters questioned the age of the BBJ, two of them— AIT’s Mike Aruleba and Rotimi Durojaiye of Daily Independent—were arrested and charged with sedition. The charges were later dropped as lawyer Femi Falana challenged the validity of the charges in court.

According to Yahoo Answers: “The purchase price of a new Gulfstream G550 ranges from US$45 million to $70 million and could be much higher depending on numerous configurations, options, paint and such…Variable operating costs (fuel, maintenance, trip expenses) are around $2,300 per hour while overall ownership expenses (including maintenance, storage, crew costs and insurance) could be around $600,000 per year…

This does not include costs for periodic maintenance procedures such as $1,000,000 for an engine rebuild, $ 200,000 for a paint job or $300,000 if you want your interior refitted…”

Analysts believe that the new jets will position Jonathan and his top aides for his presidential run. Speaking to us in Abuja, one of them questioned purchases like this only a few months after Jonathan came to power, and at a time he is criticizing corruption and lack of transparency in the country.

“This is the Nigerian economy at the frontal service of the PDP,” he said.