Buhari travels 46 days in 171 days since second term started
After spending over 400 days in office on foreign trips, most were although for medical treatment of an undisclosed ailment in the UK, in his first four years in office, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has embarked on several foreign trips in his first few months as his second term began.
Since he was sworn in for a second term on May 29, Buhari has been out of the office for 46 days.
Just a day after he was inaugurated for a second term, Buhari, on May 30, travelled to Saudi Arabia for the Summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. He returned three days later on June 2.
For seven days, from Sunday, August 25 and to Saturday, August 31, Buhari was in Japan attending the Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD7).
On 14 September, Buhari embarked on a day trip to Burkina Faso ECOWAS for a meeting on terrorism.
On Sunday, September 22, Buhari departed Nigeria for New York, United States to participate in the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA74). He left New York on Friday, September 27 and arrived on Saturday, September 28.
Buhari flew out to South Africa for a state visit and the 9th meeting of the Bi-National Commission of both countries. The president left on Wednesday, October 2nd and returned on Friday, October 4.
Weeks after the South African trip, on Monday, October 21, Buhari departed Nigeria to attend a three-day Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi, Russia. He returned on Saturday, October 26.
Most recently, just two days after he returned from Russia, Buhari announced double trips which will last for 21 days. He jetted out of the country on Monday, October 28 and returned November 15.
According to his spokesman Femi Adesina, Buhari will proceed to the United Kingdom for a private visit after attending the Future Investment Initiative (FII) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The UK private trip will last from 2nd November till the 17th November 2019.
Buhari, however, returned to Abuja ahead of schedule on 15th November.
Cost of Buhari’s trips
President Buhari’s frequent travels cost Nigeria taxpayers at least N1 billion on local and foreign trips, according to the 2019 fiscal year budget. Buhari has also proposed N1.75 billion for foreign trips in the 2020 budget.
When the president goes on a trip, he takes along an entourage. State governors and a group of his senior aides accompanies him, usually including security details, domestic or economic advisers, speechwriters, photographers, protocol officers and several others, depending on the length of the trip and its purpose.
Top officials such as the governors and ministers also travel with a few aides. Nigerian government never makes cost and expenditure on each of its trips public.
A presidential aide listed the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Mustapha Suleiman; Director-General, National Intelligence Agency, Ambassador Ahmed Rufa’i Abubakar; Director-General, National Information Technology Development Agency, Dr Isa Ali Pantami; and the Chairman, National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, Abdullahi Mukthar as part of Buhari’s trip to Saudi Arabia in May.
During the trip to Russia, Buhari was accompanied by governors Muhammad Yahaya of Gombe State, Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State and Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State. Others on the trip were the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, Minister of Trade and Investment, Adeniyi Adebayo, Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite and Minister of State, Petroleum, Timipre Sylva.
Abdullahi Sule, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu and Adegboyega Oyetola state governors of Nasarawa, Kebbi and Osun States respectively were on the trip with Buhari to New York. Some others were Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; Minister of Environment, Muhammad Mahmoud; Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed; and Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire
Kano State governor, Abdullahi Ganduje; Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong; and Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi, accompanied Buhari on the trip to South Africa.
On the trip to Japan, Buhari was accompanied by governors Babagana Zulum, AbdulRaham AbdulRazaq and Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Borno, Kwara and Lagos states respectively. There were also ministers and other top government officials on the trip.
For the recent trip to Saudi Arabia, the president was accompanied by Governor Abubakar Bagudu of Kebbi State, Governor Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina State and Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State,
Also on the entourage are the Minister of State, Foreign Affairs, Zubairu Dada; Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Niyi Adebayo; Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva; Minister of Communications, Ibrahim Pantami; the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno; Director-General, National Intelligence Agency, Ahmed Abubakar; and the Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari.
What people are saying?
“These visits help us strengthen trade and economic relations between Nigeria and countries visited,” a member of the Buhari’s media team, Ayo Akanji, told The Guardian, adding that the benefits of these trips are “inestimable.”
“Those who have offered and are offering to collaborate with Nigeria under the leadership of President Buhari are saying that they will join hands and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with him in his efforts to tackle the country’s challenges,” he said.
Akanji said Buhari’s “integrity and credibility” has helped to gain the “commitment of collaboration and cooperation from key international partners.
But critics of his administration say some of Buhari’s foreign trips are needless.
“I don’t think Buhari’s wandering around the world will in any way or manner booster Nigeria’s standing in the international community,” Audu Bulama Bukarti an analyst in the Co-Existence team at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change told The Guardian.
“What Buhari should prioritize is domestic security not only because it’s the way to a great economy but also because it’s his primary responsibility,” Bukarti added.
Can some of these trips be avoided?
Another point of argument has always been Buhari not delegation some of his foreign invites and functions to ministers and aides, which practically is one of their functions.
While reacting to this Akanji said, “important visit shouldn’t be delegated as a tremendous value would be achieved at the level of the head of state.”
His aides say Buhari is not the only Nigerian president who travels too often. Former President Goodluck Jonathan visited at least 30 countries between 2010 and 2015, while former President Olusegun Obasanjo had a record of 97 countries he visited in eight years.
Jonathan, in 2012, embarked on foreign trips at least 20 times. This prompted comparison between him and Obasanjo. Obasanjo is rated as one of the most travelled presidents with 93 foreign trips within his first three years in office.
Obasanjo spent, no less than, 340 days outside the country during his presidency and travelled 400 times in his eight years presidency.
“I travelled extensively, canvassing global understanding and our mainstreaming into the new world order, not only for Nigeria but for the whole of Africa,” Obasanjo said.
“By the time I finished my two-terms, I had travelled to 97 countries,” he said.
Bukarti, however, said Buhari’s frequent travels have cheapened him in the eyes of outsiders because “he personally attends every single occasion organised by every Tom, Dick and Henry.”
“Why won’t he delegate the Vice-President, minsters or advisers and assistants? What they being paid for?” he queried.
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