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Uproar as Tinubu takes 1,411 Nigerians to COP28, trip gulps N880m

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President Bola Tinubu-led administration appears to be in the eye of the storm after it was revealed that over 1,411 delegates from Nigeria are currently in Dubai for Climate Change Conference (COP28).

COP28 which commenced on Thursday 30 November to end on Tuesday 12 December, is a 13-day event that is used by governments to agree on policies to limit global temperature rises associated with climate change.

On Saturday, the Nigerian President shared the platform with Sultan Ahmed al-Jabar, President of COP28, John Kerry and the Chinese Envoy on Climate change.

Tinubu who spoke on the need for participants to make commitments to the goal of limiting the earth’s temperature increase to 1.5C by the end of the century, said Nigeria has committed already.

“We have been doing so before today. We are committed to critical steps to reduce methane emissions by ensuring gas flaring is eliminated. There is a huge penalty for that. There is equally a huge incentive to do so,” Tinubu said.

The bogus delegates to COP28, has revibrated the recalcitrant disposition of President Tinubu’s administration to cut down wasteful spending.

Businessday reports that out of the 1,411 delegates, 590 were sponsored to attend the conference by the Nigerian government which is currently battling with record inflation, an out-of-control exchange rate, a ballooning debt profile, and millions of its citizens sliding into poverty. The total to-and-from flight ticket for the 590 delegates is estimated at N885 million.

The media outlet said it arrived at the cost using flight rates from international airline operators. According to sources in the aviation sector who would not want to be mentioned, the federal government rarely charter local carriers when attending conferences outside the country.

The government prefers to contract international flight operators and pay them in foreign currency for charter services, this is despite having local operators with approvals to fly directly to some of the countries. The President is known to use one of the 10 Presidential fleets while the rest of the entourage charter an international flight. The cost of maintaining each of the Presidential aircraft rose by 99.6 percent to N7.297 billion in 2019.

A check on the average international flight operator showed that a two-way flight ticket from Nigeria to Dubai will cost N1.5 million.

On the list of the Nigerian delegation include the President, 25 ministers, the chief of staff, about 5 director generals, several directors, deputy directors, assistant directors, and several officials with different titles. Gilbert Ramex Chagouri is listed among the ministers as ‘Confidente of the President’.

“This number of aides and officials is too many for just a meeting. President Tinubu keeps wasting our resources on frivolities. How many people will speak on behalf of Nigeria, that is if Mr President will be allowed to climb the podium,” Adewale Damilare said on his X account.

Also, president Tinubu’s son, Seyi Tinubu is said to be part of the delegates to COP28 in Dubai.

Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has criticised Nigeria’s large delegation of 1, 411 persons to the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

PDP alleged that the country’s “over-bloated” delegation to the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) brimmed with President Bola Tinubu’s “cronies, political minions and their mistresses at huge expense to the nation”.

PDP in a statement by its spokesman, Debo Ologunagba, said the bloated delegation was a further confirmation that the Tinubu-led All Progressives Congress (APC) administration was wasteful, frivolous and reckless in the application of the scarce resources of the country. PDP regretted that the waste was especially at a time Nigerians were yearning for prudent management of resources to achieve the desired infrastructure regeneration, job creation and revamping of the economy.

PDP dismissed attempts by the presidency to rationalise the bloated delegation by trying to hide under genuine sub-national officials, businesses, journalists, and civil societies that travelled at their own expense.

The statement, “Our party and all well-meaning Nigerians are appalled by the level of profligacy inherent in the APC administration, whose actions and policies so far are skewed towards the promotion and institutionalisation of corruption.

“The attempt to deceive Nigerians, even when the list of the delegation is in the public domain, shows that the APC administration is irredeemably depraved.

“We ask, why would a country whose citizens are dying daily from inability to purchase necessities be willing to fritter its resources and scarce foreign exchange in such a manner? It only points to the fact that this administration is not interested in the good of the generality of our citizens but for a select few positioned to fleece the nation’s resources.”

Similarly, Obi, in a series of posts on his official X handle yesterday, in reaction to the trending large Nigerian delegation to COP28, bemoaned the waste and wrong imitation of a country dutifully pulling their people out of poverty.

Reports from Dubai indicated that Nigeria equalled China with 1,411 persons at the conference, the highest in the global event, aside from the host, UAE.

In a satirical response to the size of Nigeria’s contingent, Obi said, “In a twist of sad irony, let me congratulate the giant of Africa, Nigeria, for matching the great China, with the same number of contingents at the ongoing COP28 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Nigeria’s contingent to COP28 totalled 1,411, the same number as the Chinese contingents.”

The governor of Anambra State noted that while China’s budget for 2024 was about $4 trillion, about $2,860 per head; Nigeria’s budget was about $33 billion, about $165 per head.

China has a high Human Development Index, HDI, with a ranking of 79 out of 191 countries measured, and Nigeria has a low HDI, with a ranking of 163 out of 191 countries measured.
Besides, Nigeria has more people living in “Multi-Dimensional” poverty than China, despite China having seven times Nigeria’s population.

Obi stated, “Most importantly, the vast majority of those in the Nigerian delegation to COP28 are either non-relevant civil servants or relations, friends, and hangers-on of high government officials. Most of them hardly understand or have anything to do with climate change.

“This huge contingent is at public expense and at a time when most Nigerians can hardly afford food and basic needs as a result of economic hardship. I pray earnestly that a day will come soon enough when we can focus on competing with China on productivity and the miracle of migrating the highest number of its citizens out of poverty over a relatively short time.

“As we have kept emphasising, we must stop waste as an addition to our government and nation. We urgently need to cut the cost of governance and invest in production.

“We need to de-emphasise unnecessary ceremony and showmanship as a mode of government behaviour. We need to tie spending to necessity and national priority pointing out that a New Nigeria is possible but we only need to do the reasonable and the necessary.”

However, experts say it is unfortunate that the government does not recognise the importance of cutting down the high cost of governance, even when it has to borrow almost 100 percent to fund its budget.

Nigeria is planning to spend N27.5 trillion in 2024, out of which the non-debt recurrent expenditure is N9.92 trillion while debt service is projected to be N8.25 trillion and capital expenditure is N8.7 trillion.

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