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

NIGERIA’S President, Mr Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is following the footsteps of his predecessor, Mr Muhammadu Buhari, on wasting taxpayers’ money on multiple foreign trips, posh vehicles, leisure and other items that are minimally beneficial to Nigerian citizens.

At a point when 133 million Nigerians are multidimensionally poor and the country is yet to recover from being world’s poverty capital, Mr Tinubu’s son, Seyi, is using the presidential aircraft to fly anywhere he wants.

In October 2023, the young Tinubu used a presidential jet to fly to a polo tournament in Kano. He has been flying in company of his father to events even when he has no political office.

Some of President Tinubu’s posh vehicles

Under Tinubu’s predecessor, presidential aircraft were used by family members for private events. In January 2020, Buhari’s daughter, Ms Aisha Hanan Buhari, flew in a presidential jet to Bauchi for a “study tour of Bauchi Emirate.” Mr Buhari also regularly flew outside Nigeria with members of his family on official visits.

READ ALSO: Ajaokuta: Buhari approved N33bn for dormant steel company, $500m compensation, millions in export grant

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.

More so, Mr Tinubu has spent more than N2 billion on foreign trips in 6 months that have had no impact on the lives of the struggling citizens of the west African nation. Based on Economy Post‘s findings, Mr Tinubu has spent over N2 billion on foreign trips to France, the United States, India, Saudi Arabia, Kenya and Guinea Bissau.

This is not different from what Nigerians were treated with under the eight-year tenure of Mr Buhari. The former president spent millions of taxpayers’ money junketing to all parts of the world in the name of wooing investors, but foreign investments tanked during his tenure.

Foreign investments fell from $24 billion in 2019 to $5.3 billion in 2022, said the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Mr Buhari made 36 foreign trips within this period, according to Wikipedia. He was Nigeria’s president from May 2015 to May 2023.

Seyi Tinubu flew a presidential aircraft in October 2023 Source: Twitter

Budget of jamboree

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.

READ ALSO: As correctly reported, Tinubu goes on borrowing spree, plans sale of govt assets in 2024

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

Mr Tinubu’s convoy of vehicles is still very long, just like his predecessor’s, Mr Buhari.

In 2022, the former president spent N1.6 billion on new vehicles but did not explain to Nigerians what happened to vehicles used the previous year.

Mr Buhari spent N5 billion on vehicles between 2016 and 2022, Premium Times reported.

“We need to be more accountable to the people we lead,” said an accountability lawyer, Mr Damian Ehibie.

“If you are spending billions of naira on travels, cars , leisure and recreational activities at a point when many families cannot feed twice in 24 hours due to your ill-advised petrol subsidy removal and implementation of palliatives, you are profligate,'” he added

Aircraft maintenance

President Tinubu must be enjoying life with 10 presidential aircraft when his subjects are scrambling to have two meals in 24 hours..

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.

Mr Tinubu uses the aircraft for his trips in and outside Nigeria, but many are wondering whether he cannot cut the number to three or four.

“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.

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

He said cutting down the number of presidential aircraft would send signals that the president was serious with cutting governance costs.

Foreign trips

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. Based on findings from enquiries made by Economy Post, Mr Tinubu has spent above $3 million on his foreign trips since June 20.

While those foreign trips were necessary to cement Nigeria’s place as an investment destination, none has brought concrete investment. It has been all promises, the same way foreign governments pledged support to Mr Buhari but failed.

During the G-20 Summit in India in early September 2023, Mr Tinubu told investors, “We are ready to give you the best returns for investment possible, there’s nowhere else like our country. Nigeria offers the best returns for investment today, so invest now.”

According to Tinubu’s spokesman, Mr Ajuri Ngelale, India promised about $14 billion investment in Nigeria. However, none of the investments has come.

Similarly, at the Saudi-Africa Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in November, Mr Tinubu also told investors that “I wish to assure all potential Saudi investors of the safety of their investments based on the sanctity of the rule of law and good returns on their investments in the largest economy in Africa. In this regard, the benefit attached to the early inauguration of the Nigeria-Saudi Business Council can not be over-emphasized,” Voice of Nigeria reported.

Saudi’s case is peculiar. In 2019, the country’s giant energy company, Aramco, and Public Investment Fund (PIF) had pledged to explore areas of collaboration for investments in Nigeria, including partnering with the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) to revive its ailing refineries.

Four years after, the investments are yet to come, casting doubts as to whether anything positive could come of Mr Tinubu’s trip to Saudi.

“Investors are not Father Christmas. They look at the environment to know whether it is friendly or not,” said a senior lecturer of economics at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Prof Uche Nwogwugwu.

“They also look at the credibility of the leadership team. During Dr Okonjo-Iweala’s time, her credibility brought about debt cancellation. This type of thing needs to happen again,” he said.

READ ALSO: Exclusive: NNPC spends N17trn on refineries’ turnaround maintenance in 20 years

A former lecturer of ceramics engineering and Chief Executive Officer of Epina Technologies Limited, Prof Patrick Oaikhinan, said Nigeria must begin to do its home work first before trying to convince investors.

“If you are going to talk to investors about solid minerals, you need to know the potential of your solid minerals, their characteristics and areas of application. Right now, we do not know all these and we lack minerals intelligence,” he said.

“Once you have these basic pieces of information, you can now woo investors. We need to take our experts seriously to enable us to develop a roadmap for various sectors of our economy.”

Mr Tinubu has travelled to France, Kenya, Guinea Bissau, Saudi Arabia, India and the United States.

Tinubu borrows billions of dollars

Mr Tinubu is borrowing billions of dollars from international sources while running a profligate government.

In line with Economy Post report, President Tinubu’s government has gone on a borrowing spree after securing the World Bank’s $1.95 billion facility.

He recently sought the Senate approval for fresh $7.8bn and €100m loans. He will also borrow $1 billion from African Development Bank

“There was financing of $1billion concessional financing, 25 years, eight-year moratorium, at about the same for 4.2 percent per annum, which was approved by the African Development Bank for this administration and, really, it was in recognition of the macro-economic measures that have been taken, the swift movement towards macro stability, restoring revenue, improving the foreign exchange situation, and so forth, that have been taken by this government,” Minister of Finance, Mr Wale Edun, said on November 27.

“The reward, as far as the African Development Bank, a concessional financing organisation, was to provide $1billion in general budget support.”

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.

“We should begin to look at other creative ways of generating revenue. Borrowing or debt should be the last resort,” said a business analyst, Ms Aligbe Adodo.

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