• Monday, April 22, 2024
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BusinessDay

Tinubu’s Qatar trip and debacle

Tinubu’s economic Odyssey: From promises to perplexities in Nigeria’s delinquent economy

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu will head off to Qatar early next week if there are no further leaks or diplomatic snafus. Nigerian officialdom positions the trip as one of great significance for the country.

The presidency says the trip is because of ‘the strong bilateral relationship between our two countries.” It affirmed that ”the state visit by President Bola Tinubu to Qatar is at the invitation of the Emir of Qatar, His Highness Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani. The state visit mainly aims to strengthen the bilateral economic cooperation between Nigeria and Qatar.”

Senior presidential spokesman Bayo Onanuga addressed the leaked Note Verbale from the Qatar diplomatic mission to the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, denying any planned investment summit on the sidelines of President Tinubu’s visit. Mr. Onanuga claimed it was a private sector activity spearheaded by the Chamber of Commerce movement.

Read also: Tinubu more preoccupied with 2027 re-election than tackling economic challenges Labour

It ended well when the Qatari mission backtracked and welcomed the economic summit it had denied earlier. All’s well that ends in peace in the presidential villa. Not so fast.

The social media has been abuzz since Tuesday, February 27, with an infographic purporting to be the Nigerian official delegates’ list. On that list, two Tinubu sons were listed as part of the entourage. Their capacity is private. It was one leak too many concerning this same Qatar trip.

We invite President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to take a second and third look at that list. The optics are ordinarily bad, but even more so given the executive declaration to act on the Oronsaye report. The message of action in the Oronsaye report is a commitment to eliminating waste in government expenditures.

Make no mistake: Nigeria has a history of family members in presidential entourages. Including family members in the official delegations for overseas trips is perceived as a perk of power. There is usually no clear justification for official roles.

Worse is that no official guidelines regulate who can and cannot be included in presidential entourages. This lacuna leads to a lack of transparency and the potential exploitation of public funds.

“ In a nation where many struggle economically, including family members with no clear roles in an official delegation signifies potential misuse of public funds and a lack of prudence in managing limited resources.”

It has also led to bloated teams from Nigeria. It was the case recently when Nigeria posted one of the most extensive entourages to the United Nations New York meeting. The Federal Government was forced to state that rather than the outsized 1000-plus delegates, the official count was 438. Even that number was huge.

Read also: Oronsaye Report: A past distraction for Tinubu present hunger

President Bola Tinubu should consider what his entourage of 38 officials and two private delegates says about Nigeria. There is the matter of optics and perception. Including Tinubu’s sons in the official delegation raises questions about nepotism, favouritism, and a lack of distinction between private and public interests.

In a nation where many struggle economically, including family members with no clear roles in an official delegation signifies potential misuse of public funds and a lack of prudence in managing limited resources.

Significantly, coming immediately after the decision to prune down MDAs, this situation highlights a missed opportunity for the Tinubu administration to set a different standard for accountability and cost-saving measures.

The Qatar debacle

The initial snub by Qatari officials regarding a planned side event signals either a diplomatic misunderstanding, a lack of respect, or a deliberate tactic. The specific reason remains unclear.

The side event debacle and the entourage controversy compound to negatively impact Nigeria’s image on the international stage, suggesting a lack of seriousness and efficiency in diplomatic matters.

The issues surrounding Tinubu’s Qatar trip reflect broader concerns within Nigerian governance. There is a pressing need for greater transparency and accountability to ensure public funds are used responsibly and to maintain trust between the government and its citizens.

The lack of clear guidelines and the ease with which family members are included in official delegations suggest weak institutions and a culture where the line between public and private interests is blurred.

While it is not illegal for presidents to include family members in official entourages, it does raise significant questions about ethical conduct, efficiency, and the government’s commitment to prudent spending. This incident highlights the need for Nigeria to address systemic issues of transparency and accountability to build strong institutions and engender public trust.

Read also: Economic recovery: Nigerians waiting on Tinubu ‘wise men’

We join all Nigerians in hoping that the Qatari trip will bear positive economic fruits.

Nigeria-Qatar trade is not one of the high points in the diplomatic league of our country. We do not do much together. During 2021, Qatar had a large net trade with Nigeria in the exports of plastics and rubbers ($65.1 million), chemical products ($2.27 million), and machines ($697 million). During 2021, Nigeria had a large net trade with Qatar in the exports of vegetable products ($486k), foodstuffs ($105k), and wood products ($44.5k).

We join all Nigerians in hoping that the Qatari trip will bear positive economic fruits.