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COP28: FG spends N2.78bn on estacodes, airfares

Nigeria had a 1,114-member delegation to the conference, but the Presidency clarified that only 422 officials were sponsored by the federal government.

The estacodes and airfares of ministers, heads of agencies, directors and other federal government-sponsored delegates from Nigeria to the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, gulped over N2.78billion, findings by Daily Trust on Sunday have shown.

The conference was held from November 30 to December 12, 2023.

Nigeria had a 1,114-member delegation to the conference, but the Presidency clarified that only 422 officials were sponsored by the federal government.

According to the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), the per diem of a minister, a chief executive of an agency and a permanent secretary, cost $900 per night.

Directors of ministries, agencies and parastatals of government also take $500 per night as per diem.

A breakdown of the list of delegates showed that among those sponsored by the government were 27 ministers.

This implies that each of them must have taken about N900,000 per night at the current exchange rate, which fluctuates between N1,000 and N1,100 per dollar.

As such, for the 12-day outing in Dubai, the government must have spent N10.8million on each of the ministers, translating to N291m for the 27 of them.

Daily Trust on Sunday reports that some of the ministers and other top government functionaries returned to the country before the conference ended, and they might have received escacodes for the whole period of the conference.

The government must have also spent N900,000 per diem on each of the 15 chief executives of government agencies who were also on the delegation, translating to N162m for the 12 days they stayed in the United Arab Emirate.

Checks by Daily Trust on Sunday showed that 95 directors from different ministries and agencies were also sponsored to the conference, costing the government $500 on each of them, translating to N570m on all of them.

Checks by Daily Trust on Sunday also indicated that a one-way economy flight from Abuja to Dubai costs between N1.2m and N3m, depending on the airline.

Some of the popular airlines on the routes are Qatar Airways, Egypt Air, Ethiopian Airlines, Turkish Air, RwandAir, among others.

In the absence of Emirates and Etihad, which are Dubai-based airlines, the Arab carriers become the first options for many passengers before going for other carriers.

As at the time of the COP28 trip, a one-way ticket on Qatar Airways was between $2,228 and $2,242, which translated to N2.6m at the exchange rate of N1,200 at the time, while a return ticket would amount to N5.2m. A business class ticket on the same airline is above N8m.

Ethiopian Airlines fares cost between N1.2m and N1.4m and a return ticket is about N3m. For Ethiopian Airlines, a business class ticket for the Abuja-Dubai flight is N4.3m and N8.6m for a return ticket.

RwandAir ticket, on the other hand, was priced at $1,630 or N2.8m, while Egypt Air ticket was $1,354 or N2.5m as at that time.

Depending on the airline used by the participants, at least each of them would pay a minimum of N4m for the return ticket, being the least for the flight ticket if they all fly economy.

Going by the high cost of flight tickets, over N1.6billion would have been spent on flight tickets alone as the base fare for an economy ticket.

With some senior government officials preferring to travel on business class, it was possible that airfare would have gulped more to sponsor participants to the conference.

Nigerians, including the presidential candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Labour Party (LP) in the last general elections, as well as other civil society groups, had knocked the government for the trip, which they described as a waste of taxpayers’ money.

The criticisms were hinged on the hardship in the land, believed to have been largely sparked by the present administration’s twin policies of petrol subsidy removal and currency floating.

The federal government, through the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, had defended the trip, saying it was necessary due to Nigeria’s stake in global climate change action.

“The federal government-funded delegation is made up of a total of 422 persons as follows: National Council on Climate Change, 32; Federal Ministry of Environment, 34; all ministries, 167; Presidency, 67; Office of the Vice President, 9; National Assembly, 40; federal parastatals/agencies, 73.

“As the biggest economy and most populous country in Africa, with a substantial extractive economy and extensive vulnerability to climate change, Nigeria has a significant stake in climate action, and our active and robust participation at COP is therefore not unwarranted,” the minister had stated.

Govt only interested in reckless spending – CeFTIW

A development expert and the head of publicity at the Centre for Fiscal Transparency and Integrity Watch (CeFTIW) Victor Agi, said the amount of money spent on the trip showed that the government was not interested in managing the resources of the country but spending it recklessly.

“To say that the spending is ridiculous is to put it mildly, especially at a time the government has told Nigerians to make sacrifices. This is even more so when you cannot point to the socio-economic impact of the trip to the country. I personally cannot point to any nationwide climate action arising from the summit.

“This is not the first time the government has participated in such international conferences, but when you seek to know what exactly is the benefit of such travels to our ailing economy (with huge debt burden), you can’t point to anything. The issue is not that government should not be represented in such international fora, but our representation should be reasonable.

“From what has transpired in the past months, it may not be out of place to say that our problem is mostly spending issue and not necessarily a revenue one.

“With the removal of fuel subsidy we can now see that the government now has money to throw away. And it is not just about the CoP28, we have seen that some spending proposal in the budget before the National Assembly clearly points to the fact that the government is not interested in fiscal prudence but wants to continue with reckless spending,” Agi said.

He added that as a result of politicians’ quest for such unwarranted spending, Nigeria’s recurrent expenditure (36.1%) “is higher than capital (31.9%), with debt servicing gulping as much as 30 per cent in the current budget.”

Speaking on solutions, he stated, “If we must make any progress, the government must be intentional about cutting the cost of governance and frivolity.

“Who says that 50 or a maximum of 100 government delegates who are business-minded cannot get the work done at CoSP28? Government-sponsored travels should be purely business and not some jamboree to reward cronies.

“Until and except we approach governance with a business mind, the so-called removal of subsidy will only be another policy that will further impoverish the people while the political elites grow fatter.”

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