Nigeria’s Presidential Yacht: Lest We Forget

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By Bola BOLAWOLE

turnpot@gmail.com 0807 552 5533

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The outcry over the Nigerian Navy yacht, otherwise known as the presidential yacht, has characteristically died down but I am not certain the matter has been conclusively resolved. Like most things Nigerian, it has been swept under the carpet. You only need to know how many hurricanes have been swept under the Nigerian carpet, and how many more are still being swept underneath it. Nigeria’s carpet is like the ubiquitous “Molue” which always has space for additional passengers, even when it is obvious to all that it is already bursting at the seams!

Scripture says in Proverbs 30: 15 – 17: “There are three things that are never satisfied, four that never say, ‘Enough’: the grave, the barren womb, land, which is never satisfied with water, and fire, which never says, ‘Enough’!” Nigeria’s can of worms makes the fifth! It never gets satisfied! And it is never filled! Nigeria is a country of one scandal, one moment. Before you have fully digested one, another occurs. The rapidity befuddles everyone. So, we sweep them under the carpet so we can move on. Otherwise, we would do nothing else other than attend to one scandal after another!

The unfortunate thing, however, is that the dead that we bury with the legs sticking out always return to haunt us. When the ostrich buries its head in the sand and leaves its rump for all to see, it deceives itself thinking it is hidden from the enemy. The media whose watchdog role burdens it with the responsibility of investigative journalism is too financially encumbered to discharge this onerous responsibility real time.

How many media houses still pay living wages as at when due? Many journalists these days have been reduced to glorified destitute and beggars by their heartless and conscienceless employers. Online publications have also upstaged the traditional media, the print especially. Unfortunately, the same social media and its “bo’le-k’a-ja” style of operation makes it unsuitable for any meaningful investigative journalism.

In the last few weeks, for instance, we have had the debacle of the Court of Appeal judgment in Kano state as well as in many other states of the federation; the dog fight between godfather Nyesom Wike and godson Fubara in Rivers state; and the invalid Gov. Rotimi Akeredolu and his cabals slugging it out with the camp of the ambitious deputy governor in a do-or-die-battle for the purse of Ondo state.

This is not to talk of the spectacle of a Kogi state governor-elect kneeling before his magistral godfather-governor or of an NLC president beaten blue and black in his home state of Imo! In Osun state, the governor sacked and un-sacked the state Chief Judge. In Abuja, demolitions brought cries of anguish from residents. In Lagos, citizens cried out over humongous budgetary allocations to inanities while important matters, such as Lagos schools bereft of teachers, were left unattended to. An aircraft left Lagos for Abuja but landed in Asaba, Delta state! Lord have mercy!

We can go on and on! A stitch in time saves nine! Once bitten, twice shy! Not so, Nigeria! We keep falling into the same pit again and again! Have we properly resolved the presidential yacht matter, so that P&ID (Process and Industrial Developments Limited) will not chance upon us again? Those who claim to know say this country has lost millions, even billions, in foreign currencies as a result of contract agreements that we carelessly entered into and whimsically allowed to become an albatross around our neck.

For trifles, men and women paid to protect the interest of this country sell out to outsiders. We then need to ask: What is the latest information on the presidential yacht of controversy? Has it been delivered to us? Is it in our custody? Is it on our shores or seas? Have we started using it? The last information I heard of the yacht is the Navy saying it has taken delivery of the yacht but “it has not been paid for” That is incongruous!

You took delivery of what you are yet to pay for! Now the National Assembly has vetoed budgetary allocation by the president to pay for the yacht. Shall we return it? Is it returnable? My suspicion is that both the president and National Assembly will reach an accommodation behind our back and quietly pay for the yacht. While this is not the right thing to do, it is still better, in my view, than be dragged before arbitration and be made to pay humongous penalties, like was done with Jakande’s metro line project aborted by military dictator Buhari for no cogent reasons. Let the government, however, come into the open – and come clean.

I then began to ask Google questions about presidential yachts. Who makes Presidential yachts? “Located in southern Taiwan, (the company named) Presidential Yachts has been manufacturing and exporting luxury yachts globally for over 40 years. Eddie Yeh, the founder of the yard, started in 1968 and has built a company that has a sturdy reputation for skillfully building fiberglass yachts”.

What are the world’s largest yachts? They are: Azzam, owned by the estate of Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan; Fulk Al Salamah, owned by the Omani royal family; Eclipse, owned by Russia’s Roman Abramovich; and Dubai, owned by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Abramovich’s 533-footer Eclipse ($1.5 billion) is the second costliest as well as second largest yacht in history. History Supreme ($4.8 billion), the costliest presidential yacht ever, is presumed to have been owned by the Malaysian billionaire, Robert Kuok.

Then I began to ask questions around VIPs who own yachts. Ex- US President Donald Trump bought 86-metre Benetti superyacht Nabila and transformed it into the Trump Princess. Footballers who own superyachts include Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Sergio Ramos.

Apart from footballers, Bill Gates reportedly has splashed $600m on a 376-foot-long, hydrogen-powered superyacht. Elon Musk, however, does not own a yacht. African-American talk show sensation, Oprah Winfrey, has a 452 ft. 9 in. yacht named the Rising Sun.

As of April 2019, the US has the most superyachts (158) followed by Italy, Spain, France and Greece in that order. Fort Lauderdale, USA, is called the yacht capital of the world. Upward of 50,000 boats and yachts homeport here.

How much fuel does a yacht consume? An average 70-metre luxury yacht burns around 130 gallons per hour with the engines running. The amount of fuel consumed increases significantly when the ship is moving.

Still on VIPs who owned a yacht: Steve Jobs had a yacht named Venus but never got to see the $120m luxury yacht before he died in 2011. His wife, Laurene, now owns the yacht. Michael Jordan owns a fishing yacht called Catch-23 and is valued at $8 million. Jeff Bezos owns a yacht called Oceanco. Bernard Arnault owns a yacht called Symphony. John Christodoulou has a $50m 74m yacht called Zeus (formerly owned by Aidan Barclay). Tennis superstar Rafael Nadal, martial artist Conor McGregor and fashion designer Giorgio Armani are other VIPs with superyachts.

You may wish to know why yachts are so expensive; the answer is this: “One of the main reasons… is the cost of materials and technology used in their construction. However, advances in technology are making it possible to build yachts more efficiently and at lower cost”.     

Then I asked the question: Do we have Nigerians who own super yachts? See the names that popped up!

Mariya, owned by Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote. The $43 million108-foot motor yacht has room for up to eight guests in its fine and well-designed four cabins, including a master suite, one VIP stateroom and two twin cabins.

Boadicea, owned by Gabriele Volpi, an Italian-Nigerian billionaire businessman, can accommodate up to 14 guests in its seven beautifully-designed cabins as well as a crew of 23.

Illusion (formerly known as Galactica Star) owned by Kola Aluko, co-Chief Officer and Executive Director of Atlantic Energy. The 65-meter (213-foot) motor yacht can accommodate up to six guests in 12 cabins consisting of one master, one VIP and four double staterooms. Aluko owned this boat up until 2017 when it was confiscated by the United States government as part of the asset recovery initiative from Diezani Alison-Madueke, the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, over corruption charges in Nigeria. In 2019, the yacht was sold for $42m at auction to Burgess yachts, representing an anonymous buyer.

Nana, owned by Femi Otedola, President/Chief Executive Officer of Zenon Petroleum and Gas Limited. The 108-motor yacht can accommodate up to eight people and a four-man crew.

Yemoja (formerly known as Hud Hud) owned by Deinde Fernandez. Yemoja means “Mermaid” in the Yoruba language. The yacht was formerly owned by late businessman and diplomat, Ambassador (Chief) Antonio Oladeinde Fernandez. It can accommodate up to eight guests and 10 crew members, including the captain.

Then I asked the question: How many Nigerian preachers own a yacht? No name popped up! Instead, Google reeled out names of Nigerian preachers who own multi-million-dollar private jets! Jesus borrowed Peter’s boat and preached at sea; won’t Nigerian preachers do likewise?

Bolawole, former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, is a public affairs analyst.

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