President Muhammadu Buhari is presently in China on a state visit to the Asian nation. The visit is to afford him an opportunity to obtain a loan he would use to fund the deficit in this year’s N6.06 trillion budget despite earlier pronouncement that the budget was zero-based
This visit to China makes it a total of 26 of such trips since May 29, 2015 when he took oath of office as President and Commander-in-Chief and by the time he would return, he would have spent 50 days outside Nigeria despite the enormous challenges facing the country.
In a related development, President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval rating has slipped further from 32.8% in February to 31.2% in March, amid worsening economic crisis and crippling fuel scarcity, according to a new monthly poll by Governance Advancement Initiative for Nigeria, GAIN.
Impeccable sources within the Federal Ministry of Finance told Nigerian Pilot that each of the state visits cost Nigeria a minimum of N200million (Two Hundred Million Naira), bringing a total of about N5.2billion of tax payers money. The amount excludes what state governors and ministers who are always part of the president’s entourage draw from their respective state governments’ and ministries’ accounts in the name of estacode and other allowances.
Over time, many Nigerians including Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose, the opposition party Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and others had raised the alarm over the huge amount spent by the Presidency on foreign trips at a period the economy is recording a slide with the main source of revenue oil, taking a nosedive below budgetary projections. But the Presidency and the ruling All Progressives Congress APC have always justified the foreign trips stating that they were needed to woo foreign investors and rekindle the confidence of the international community on our nation.
Our investigations showed that the amount spent on each foreign trip by the presidency is deduced from official basic travel budget for civil servants and politicians, which peg foreign travel amount for the President of Nigeria at N200 million per trip irrespective of the destination. Similarly, the vice president and the senate president have N120m and N80m respectively attached to their offices for such trips also. This amount according to our source however covers total expenditure for each trip which, in the case of the president, include, cost of fuelling his official aircraft, all flight charges outside the country, security, accommodation and feeding as well as travel allowances for the president and his entourage.
President Buhari’s first official trip after he became president of the country started with a one day trip to Niger on June 3 2015 where he held talks with President Mahamadou Issoufou on security issues affecting the sub-region including how to curb the activities of Boko Haram . On June 4, Buhari headed for Chad to hold talks with his Chadian counterpart, Idris Deby, as Nigeria and neighbouring countries discussed ways of finding lasting solutions to the lingering Boko Haram insurgency. Two days after his trip from Niger and Chad, the president left Abuja for Germany to attend the G-7 meeting, accompanied by a 20-man delegation including former Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, former Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Abdulrahman Dambazau (ret.), his personal photographer, Bayo Omoboriowo, and his cook. He went to South Africa on June 15, to attend the African Union (AU) summit and on July 19, President Buhari left Abuja for the USA with a 33-man delegation on the invitation of president Barrack Obama of the United states .
He visited the US again in September for the UN General Assembly with a 22-man delegation after celebrating the Eid in his home town in Daura.
On August 1, President Buhari paid a one-day visit to Benin Republic with a sole agenda of discussing ways of extending the fight against Boko Haram insurgency. On September 7, Buhari was in Ghana after which he left for France on September 14, on a three-day official visit following an invitation from his French counterpart Francois Hollande.. On October 27, he left Abuja for New Delhi, India, to take part in the 3rd Summit of the India-Africa Forum. In November 22, he was in Tehran, Iran, to participate in the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) summit. He has since also visited Dubai in United Arab Emirate, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United states for the Nuclear summit and now China.
Cumulatively, Buhari has been out of the country for 50 days in which he spent 1, 200 man hours on such trips.
Although the explanation for the trips are majorly to attract investors, seek help in repatriating alleged stolen money stashed in foreign countries and to seek help to fight terrorism, Buhari watchers however state that no immediate visible sign of accomplishing any of the agenda for the trips has manifested since May 29, 2015.
The president has been largely criticized for his numerous trips because of a plethora of challenges facing the country since he took over. These include a resurgence of insecurity in form of kidnapping and the unreported activities of Boko Haram which in April 1, 2016, almost wiped out Ngurum village in Gulani Local Government Area of Yobe state where no fewer than 250 house were razed, 20 people including women and children shot at pointblank while scores were maimed. Closely related to this is the economy that has had a free fall with no safety nets in sight, the unending fuel scarcity despite his assurances that succor will soon come, the issue of power and no visible foreign investments arising from these trips.
Some people who spoke Nigerian Pilot bemoan this latest China trip as insensitive at a time there is a raging controversy over 2016 budget and a wobbling economy.
They also question the rationale behind the trips since as the Minister of Petroleum, fuel queues are getting longer despite assurances by the Minister of state Ibe Kachikwu that the country will have enough supply to end the scarcity by April 7 2015, four clear days before the president embarked on the trip.
However, some other people interviewed on this pleaded for patience because according to them, the benefits of the trips will manifest as from 2016.
According to GAIN President Buhari’s approval rating has slipped further from 32.8% in February to 31.2% in March, amid worsening economic crisis and crippling fuel scarcity. The group said more Nigerians scored Buhari low on his administration’s handling of the economy, power and fuel shortage.
It is the second time the president’s rating dropped since GAIN in December started monthly tracking of performance of governments at all levels in Nigeria.
In earlier months, the poll found that majority of respondents did not blame President Buhari for Nigeria’s economic troubles. They blamed former President Goodluck Jonathan instead.
In January, the president’s approval rating stood at 63.4%.
The trend however shifted significantly in February as the nation’s economic crisis bit harder.
In March, which is the latest result, the poll said more Nigerians continued to blame Buhari— not Mr. Jonathan— for the nation’s economic woes.
Reasons adduced for the low rating was current petroleum scarcity, bad economy, power outage, and broken campaign promises.
However, other people interviewed on this pleaded for patience because according to them, the benefits of the trips will manifest as from 2016. This is in line with earlier statement credited to Buhari’s SA media Garba Shehu in his bid to justify the trips “…in public diplomacy, experts say that it is better conducted through face to face interaction that through third parties. This is moreso at the level of heads of states. To do it by proxy is to miss the effect of fostering strong interpersonal relationship between leaders, by which nations benefit…”

READ ALSO  Hunger in the land: Nigerians may revolt – Sen Sani