• Sunday, February 25, 2024
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BusinessDay

Tinubu’s outsized COP28 delegation costs N880m to fly

Does it matter who Tinubu really is?

Bola Ahmed Tinubu, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who is participating in the Climate Change Conference (COP28) arrived in Dubai with 1,411 delegates, according to a list by the UN Climate Change, making him the leader in Africa with the highest entourage and the third largest representation among global countries attending the conference.

COP28 which started 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 and adapt to impacts 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 President of COP28. The President 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.
Read also: Funding to mitigate droughts, insecurity top Tinubu’s agenda at COP28

“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.

However, back home, it is not Tinubu’s pledges that have Nigerians buzzing. His government continues to show that it cannot curb wasteful spending.

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.

BusinessDay 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.
Read also: Squandermania: 100-car convoy puts Tinubu on the spot

However, a source at the Presidency told BusinessDay that only seven ministers embarked on the Dubai trip. In a video trending online, Seyi Tinubu was seen entering the venue of the COP28 ahead of the President and his very large entourage. Apart from the cost of flight, it is also a normal practice by the Nigerian government to give per diem also called estacodes to those going with the President on any trip.

BusinessDay investigation found that the estacode each traveler receives depends on their level. Ministers are paid $900 per day as estacode which amounts to $11,7000 per minister for the 13 days the conference would be held. Permanent secretaries get $600, amounting to $7,800 for the same period. Officers of levels 15-17 receive $425 amounting to $5,525 in total. Levels 7-14 get $381 amounting to $4,953 and levels 1-6 get $206 amounting to $2,678 for the 13 days.

“COP28 is a 13-day event that will cost a lot more money in hotel accommodation than UNGA. It’ll be nice for Nigerians to know how much is spent in sponsoring Tinubu and all that accompanied him to COP28. Tinubu and 2 Ministers would’ve been more than enough for this trip given the current economic reality in the country,” said a Nigerian who goes by the name Brother Barth on X.

“Nigeria at COP-28. An entrance befitting a country that delivers 400,000MW to its people daily, utilising approximately 100bcf of gas daily, with a $4trn economy and arriving the Dubai meetings with 1,411-strong delegation of which 851 are delegates of various federal and state government entities, third largest behind China and Brazil. We will surely be a strong and persuasive voice for climate action at COP-28,” an energy consultant said describing what would have been an ideal situation.

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.