That "Tokunboh" Plane And Sedition In Nigeria

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That "Tokunboh" Plane And Sedition In Nigeria

 

By

 

Mobolaji E. Aluko, PhD

alukome@gmail.com

 

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

 

 

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

Boeing Inc, with headquarters in Chicago, Illinois, is the largest aircraft manufacturer in the world, followed closely by Airbus of France. It typically takes 2 years to complete one of its aircrafts in the 737 New Generation (NG) series, from order to delivery.

 

One of such aircrafts being contemplated to be built was given the Construction Number 34260 in 2002 or 2003 by Boeing following an order by some "mysterious customer"   even though that did not mean that it would be built.  However this particular one a Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) was built the 1746th 737-NG plane ever actually built. [A total of 5097 737s have ever been built, as of June 17, 2006.]

 

According to a Boeing press release, the BBJ is a high-performance derivative of the commercially popular Next-Generation 737-700 and provides unsurpassed levels of space, comfort and utility, with a cabin offering 807 square feet (75 square meters) of space, nearly three times the interior space of competing models with similar range capability.   There are currently 84 of such planes in service around the world - these include 10 BBJ2s which are based on 737-800 and which offer 25 percent more cabin space and twice as much cargo capacity as the standard BBJ.   All BBJs are manufactured at the Boeing Commercial Airplane Group manufacturing facilities at Renton in Washington State, USA.

 

In any case, this particular BBJ 737-700 plane that we are interested in took its first flight ever on June 29, 2005, with a Boeing manufacturer "dealer plate" Registration number N1786B.      Having passed that test flight in flying colors, it was given a substantive Registration number N1781B.  It was then entered in the log books as signed, sealed and delivered by Boeing on July 5, 2005.   At this time, the designation of the plane as a Boeing "type 7N6" was a code-word that it was a Boeing 727-700 meant for the Government of Nigeria ("7N6" is used for Nigerian government as operator.)

 

On July 14, 2005, it actually became the joint property of BBJ and the Government of Nigeria, and it was "re-registered" with the new registration number 5N-FGT.   The following day, it was freight-forwarded to Newcastle County Airport (ICAO code KILG) in Wilmington, Delaware, USA.  Still not completely satisfied with the thrust and fuel range of the standard BBJ, the Nigerian government asked for and got   at least three and possibly seven auxiliary fuel tanks installed on this its spankingly new 737-7N6 plane, registration number 5N-FGT.  This was achieved at the PATS Aircraft, LLC facility in Georgetown, Delaware.   This enhancement was completed on August 31, 2005.

 

How did I get all the information that I gave above about this plane?  Simply by  using Google search on the Internet !    The reader is invited to try it himself or herself.   I did not speak to a single soul!   

 

And I stand to be corrected.

 

 

"TOKUNBOH PLANE" ALLEGATION  -  AND SEDITION  KE ?

 

We were not to read about this plane again until

 

-          it was allegedly physically delivered in Nigeria on or around May 7, 2006 almost a year after last re-fitting by PATS;

 

-          it developed an engine  problem on May 16, 2006, and had a make an emergency landing at the namdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja a few minutes after take-off with President Olusegun Obasanjo and some of his aides and top government officials on board, all enroute to Paris, France. The new plane had only the week before returned from a trip to Indonesia and Kampala where President Obasanjo had gone to attend the D-8 meeting and the swearing-in of President Yoweri Museveni for a third term.

 

-          A newspaper reporter (Rotimi Durojaiye, Daily Independent) reported on June 12 in an article titled ""Controversy over age, cost of presidential jet" (see below) a speculation that the plane was a five-year-old retrofit bought from abroad and previously owned by Lufthansa a "Tokunboh" in Nigerian parlance, which in Yoruba literally means "arrival via overseas route.".   This report was then the subject of a TV program (Focus Nigeria; anchored by Mr. Gbenga Aruleba) on African Independent Television AIT on June 13.

 

-          June 14, Aruleba were arrested by Nigeria's SSS, and held in detention before being released the following day.   He was asked to report back on a daily basis.

 

-          June 26, Aruleba was re-arrested this time with Durojaiye also arrested;

 

-          on June 27, they, along with their publishers and employers [the Africa Independent Television and the Daily Independent Newspapers Limited] were arraigned for sedition.   The six-count charge sheet said their showed "intent to bring into hatred or contempt or excite disaffection against the person of the President or the Government of the Federation".

 

 

And that is where we are now. 

 

These arrests on such a speculation is an atrocious attack on the Press and Media in Nigeria in a manner reminiscent of the dictatorial Abacha days, and an affront to the people of Nigeria to who the press owes an obligation to play a watch-dog role without caring whose ox is gored.

 

Let us come to the issue of malice and sedition.

 

Could Durojaiye have missed the correct information?  Certainly, since he is human but he could have missed it without malice against the Nigerian government.   In fact, he might have been looking for information about a standard 737-800 plane maybe due to wrong information by the Nigerian government itself but saw no Nigerian government plane listed in the relevant database, while in fact the plane that was purchased was a 737-700 BBJ.

 

Is there a Lufthansa connection ANYWHERE?  Yes, a BBJ plane with Construction number 30752 the 451 st 737 plane ever built , an 737-7CN/W with test number N1786B (first flown December 8, 1999), registration number N1026G, later re-registered as HB-IIQ is shown in the accessed database as being operated (as of June 2002) by BBJ/Privatair/Lufthansa.    The close association of Nigerian government with Lufthansa (Germany) in the past might have led to the present speculation that that was the same plane.

 

The point here is that the Lufthansa connection was not a WILD claim, even if it was an incorrect one.

 

 

A THIN-SKINNED GOVERNMENT WITH "BAD BELLE"

 

So, instead of the government charging the newspaper author Durojaiye for publishing the speculation, and Aruleba for discussing it on TV, why did it not just tender all the Boeing information to assert that the plane is indeed new?    Should incomplete or speculative information about a plane be equated to sedition? 

 

Absolutely not!

 

The arrest of Aruleba for discussing a newspaper report on TV - is even more ridiculous, and both of the arrests must stem from "bad belle" (malice) over AIT and the general Nigerian media's very laudable and leading role in the demise of the Third-Term agenda (TTA).

 

 

EPILOGUE

 

Some legal eagles of Nigeria for example Gani Fawehinmi, Femi Falana and others -  have stated that the law about sedition in Nigeria is a dead law, and was brought over in the first instance by the colonial masters.   This writer believes that it should stay dead.  Hence Aruleba and Durojaiye should be released to their families and their employers without further delay.  

 

Finally, for the rest of the one year left for the Obasanjo regime, it should not do anything further to heat up our polity unnecessarily: The First Estate of the Realm should leave the Fourth Estate alone.

 

I rest my case.

 

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