Despite complaints by Nigerians and a critical editorial by one of Nigeria’s most widely read newspapers, President Muhammadu Buhari has chosen to continue his frequent foreign trips.
The president jets out to Saudi Arabia today for a three-day official assignment followed by a two-day personal religious act, his office said on Sunday.
Reliable sources at the presidency told PREMIUM TIMES that after the president returns on Saturday, he will, days later, proceed on a vacation to the UK for about 10 days.
The UK trip is yet to be officially announced.
On Sunday, the presidency announced the departure of Mr Buhari to attend the third edition of the Future Investment Initiative (FII) organised by Saudi’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).
Also, he will proceed to Makkah on Thursday to perform Umrah.
History of Trips
Mr Buhari is not new to criticisms on foreign travels. He spent over one-third of his first three years in office outside Nigeria, according to computation by Punch Newspapers. A large part of that was for medical treatment of an undisclosed ailment in the UK.
In the past three months, the president has traveled at least four times, spending over 15 days.
Although the travels were deemed a priority by the presidency, many Nigerians have argued that the president could have sent few representatives to some of the events, thus cutting cost and having more time to attend to important national issues at home.
Some of his recent foreign trips have been to Japan, Russia, South Africa and the U.S.
From August 26- 31, President Buhari was in Japan for six days attending the Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD7).
On September 16, he departed Abuja for New York, United States to participate in the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA74). President Buhari was scheduled as Number Five Speaker on the first day of the debate on climate change. He spent three days in New York.
Early October, the president travelled to South Africa for a state visit and the 9th meeting of the Bi-National Commission between both countries. That visit came weeks after the xenophobic attacks against Nigerians and other Africans in South Africa. Mr Buhari, who spent three days in the country, had earlier sent an emissary to Cyril Ramophosa, South Africa’s President to register the grievances of Nigerians.
Between October 24 and 26, Mr Buhari attended a three-day Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi, Russia.
According to the presidential spokesperson, the event held from a focus on exploring and expanding opportunities in security, trade and investment, science and technology, and gas production.
Buhari and his ‘large’ entourage
Whenever Mr Buhari goes on these trips, he is accompanied by a retinue of public officials, all at the expense of the Nigerian people.
The total cost and expenditure on each of these trips are never made public.
Checks by PREMIUM TIMES showed that on the four trips Mr Buhari embarked on in the past three months, he was accompanied by a total of 12 state governors alongside ministers, designated special advisers, and other travel aides.
According to the 2020 budget proposal, Mr Buhari’s foreign trips for the year will cost N1.75 billion, a significant increase from the N1 billion budgeted for the same purpose in 2019. Conversely, local trips are estimated to cost N775.6 million in 2020.
During the trip to Russia, Mr 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 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.
The presidency does not list the retinue of domestic aides who accompany the president on such trips, including photographers, protocol officers, security officers, various media aides and so on.
On the New York trip, Governors Abdullahi Sule, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu and Adegboyega Oyetola of Nasarawa, Kebbi and Osun States respectively accompanied the president. 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 Mr Buhari on the trip to South Africa.
On the trip to Japan, Mr 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 today’s trip to Saudi Arabia, the president will be accompanied by Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State, Governor Abubakar Bagudu of Kebbi State and Governor Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina 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.