COP28: Amid Nigeria’s N96trn debt, Tinubu spends over $3m on flights, estacodes for 422 delegates

THE Bola Tinubu administration has spent more than $3 million on flight tickets, hotels and estacodes to sponsor 422 delegates to COP28 despite leading a nation that owes its citizens and the outside world N96 trillion and in which 133 million people are multidimensionally poor, Economy Post has found.

In 2022, 120 Nigerian delegates attended the climate change conference (COP27) in Egypt but Mr Tinubu, who was sworn in on May 29 this year, has raised the standards, sponsoring 422 government delegates and leading a retinue of 1,411 Nigerians to the event.

With the Presidency’s reluctance to release details of its expenditure on the jamboree COP28 in Dubai, Economy Post‘s data unit, Postlytics, estimated, based on evidence, how much that trip should cost Nigeria at the minimum.

Nigeria’s Current Reality
Items
Amount
No of Delegates422
Flight$1.266 million
Estacode$1.646 million
Hotels$108,508
Public DebtN96 trillion
Multi Poverty133 million people
Misery Index52.2%
Corruption Ranking150/180
Out-of-school children20 million
HDI Ranking163
Jobless Rate33.3%
Source: TI, UN, DMO, NBS, Economy Post

With an average cost of $3000 on a return ticket to Dubai (business and economy classes), the cost of flying 422 delegates stands at $1.266 million for the 422 delegates.

Based on interviews with three civil servants in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Labour and Employment, and Standards Organisation of Nigeria, who have been sponsored by the government on foreign trips, an average estacode paid to a government official who is sent on an official trip abroad is $300 per day. For the 13-day trip, this amounts to $3,900 per person and $1.646 million for 442 delegates.

READ ALSO: How rubberstamp National Assembly plunged Nigeria into N96trn debt

For the hotel cost, the least rate seen on Booking.com platform in Dubai for the 13-day trip is $257.13 per person, totalling $108,508 for 442 delegates.

With $1.266 million spent on flight tickets, $1.646 million expended on estacodes and $108,508 on hotels, the trip costs at least $3.020 million or N2.265 billion. This is a conservative estimate that did not factor in President Tinubu and his ministers, who are entitled to bigger estacodes and more expensive hotel rooms.

“I looked at the list of delegates and found that presidency alone has 67 delegates, while federal agencies have 73 delegates. What are they all going there to do? How much returns will that bring to Nigeria,” a United Kingdom-based economist, Prof Obinna Onyejianya, said.

“Make no mistakes, any climate change event is critical. I have participated in some and I am a staunch supporter of climate events. However, why do you need all the 422 delegates for? This is wasteful,” he added.

Prof Onyejianya was right. Based on the list released by the Federal Government, the president has 67 delegates at the event, while federal agencies/parastatals have 73 delegates. The National Assembly has 40 delegates, whereas all ministries of the government have 167. The Federal Ministry of Environment has 34 delegates, while the National Council on Climate Change has 32 delegates. Office of the vice president has 9 delegates.

READ ALSO: Like Buhari, Tinubu wastes billions of taxpayers money on foreign trips, cars, leisure

“This does not mean that they are sponsored or funded by the government. It must be said also that the fact that people registered to attend a conference does not mean everyone that registered is physically present,” said presidential spokesperson, Mr Ajuri Ngelele.

“President Tinubu and other officials on the Federal government delegation are in Dubai for serious business, not jamboree,” he noted.

Tinubu’s wasteful govt

The current Bola Tinubu government has wasted millions of Nigerian taxpayers’ dollars on foreign trips, leisure and vehicles, spending over $ 3 million on six foreign trips before the Dubai COP28 travel.

The Foundation for Investigative Journalism’s findings showed that Mr Tinubu spent $507,384 to attend the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York in October. 

Also, Mr Tinubu is servicing 10 presidential aircraft even when it makes economic sense to sell some of them. The cost of maintaining presidential fleet jumped from N4.37 billion in 2017 to N12.48 billion in 2022, according to data obtained from the appropriation bills of the Federal Government. It costs about N12.5 billion to maintain the fleet today.

While N4.37 billion was allocated for the maintenance of the aircraft in 2017, the cost rose to N7.26bn in 2018 and further to N7.30bn in 2019. It reduced to N6.79 billion in 2020 but rose much higher to N12.55 billion in 2021. It slightly reduced to N12.48 billion in 2022.

“President Tinubu should show the people of Nigeria that he cares by cutting down the number of aircraft on the presidential fleet by half,” said a lecturer at a university in the United States, Dr Hamman Danbaba.

“How can you fly in 10 aircraft when the majority of your people cannot eat twice in 24 hours. This is wrong, so wrong,” he added.

Budget Gone Awry

In his 2023 supplementary budget, Mr Tinubu budgeted N4 billion for renovation of his residential quarters, and N2.5 billion for renovation of the VP’s residence. He also earmarked N4 billion for renovation of presidential residence in Lagos, and N3 billion for rehabilitation of the VP’s official residence in Lagos. Mr Tinubu’s wife, who is not recognised by the Nigerian constitution, was allocated N1.5 billion to spend.

Even with hardship experienced by Nigerians, the president earmarked N4bn for a yatch, N2.9 billion for SUVs to be used in the Presidential Villa, and another N2.9 billion to replace operational vehicles.

Nigerians are wondering why the president is focused on spending rather than earning revenues for a country in fiscal crisis. Nigeria’s budget deficit under former President Muhammadu Buhari and now President Tinubu stands at N56 trillion, with analysts worried that this could get worse, especially with low revenues.

Debt growing

Public debt is growing under President Tinubu. After securing the World Bank’s $1.95 billion facility, Mr Tinubu recently sought the Senate approval for fresh $7.8bn and €100m loans. He will also borrow $1 billion from African Development Bank, as earlier reported by Economy Post.

READ ALSO: Fact-Check: Contrary to Tinubu’s claim, Nigerian economy can’t grow to $1trn by 2026

Nigeria’s total public debt stock as at June 30, 2023, was N87. 38 trillion ($113.42bn), according to the Debt Management Office (DMO).

As at June 2023, external debt was estimated at $43.159 billion. With the $1.95 billion already secured as well as $7.8 billion, €100 million and $1 billion loans being sought, Nigeria’s external debt is likely to move above $54 billion by end of 2023.

Nigeria faces a debt servicing problem. Total debt servicing from April to June 2023 was $368.262 million, according to the DMO. Nigeria is more exposed to multilateral organisations whose debt servicing within the 3-month period was $172.286 million. This is followed by the International Development Association, with debt servicing totalling $$116.350 million. Third on the list is the bilateral organisations, with debt servicing estimated at $39.133 million.

In spite of these, Mr Tinubu continues to waste public funds amid economic hardship caused by his unplanned petrol subsidy.

“I think Tinubu has to rethink the way he spends public funds. He has been wasteful and appears as if he does not understand the country’s fiscal outlook. He needs to stop the jamboree and get to work. He has to cut the cost of governance first before asking Nigerians for sacrifice,” said a Port Harcourt-based accountant, Ms Kate Onyeama.

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