By mid November, President Buhari would have embarked on four foreign trips in three months. Should Nigerians be worried?
As you read this, President Muhammadu Buhari will be back in the skies for the Economic Forum of the Future Investment Initiative (FII) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
When he returns from Saudi Arabia, Buhari will be off again, this time to London, for a private visit.
“At the end of the summit, President Buhari will on Saturday 2nd November, 2019, proceed to the United Kingdom on a private visit. He is expected to return to Nigeria on 17th November, 2019,” presidency spokesperson, Femi Adesina, has announced.
These trips arrive hot on the heels of Buhari’s visits to Japan, South Africa and Russia within a two-month span.
According to a Punch editorial, President Buhari spent a cumulative 404 days outside of Nigeria’s shores--visiting 33 countries--in the first three years of his first term.
That essentially means Buhari spent more than a year touring the world in his first term.
Nigeria’s president embarked on trips to China, India, Jordan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Chad, France, Turkey, Poland, Malta, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Ghana, Cameroon, the Gambia, Niger Republic, Mali, Qatar, Sudan, Ivory Coast, Togo, Republic of Benin, Germany, Senegal, Ethiopia, Egypt and Kenya in his first 36 months in office, Punch adds.
The president has also visited the United States 41 times .
Buhari has been to Burkina Faso, New York, South Africa , Japan and Russia since he was sworn-in for a second term in office in May of 2019.
“The President and his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, received an allocation of N1.3 billion in this year’s N8.9 trillion budget, mainly for their international trips. Domestic trips constitute a low percentage of this allocation.
“Buhari has proposed a N3.3 billion budget to take care of his and his deputy’s trips in the 2020 Appropriation Bill before NASS. The government Buhari leads is piling up taxes and charges on the people without considering how to cut down the huge cost of governance,” the Punch editorial reads.
Can some of these trips be avoided?
The argument has always been that President Buhari can actually delegate some of his foreign trips, because that is exactly why he has ministers and aides, right?
Pundits have always wondered why the president considers most foreign invitations worthy of his presence.
For example, Buhari is traveling to Riyahd to attend the `What’s Next for Global Business?’ forum which holds from October 29 to October 31, 2019.
The three-day event will be held under the patronage of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia and chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz.
After the investors’ conference in Riyadh, President Buhari would proceed to Makkah, accompanied by close personal aides, to perform Umrah (lesser pilgrimage) before returning to Abuja.
Was this a trip Buhari could have asked a minister or two to embark on in his stead? Are there trips in the president's itinerary that he should cede to a member of his team in order to tackle more pressing domestic issues?
In defense of Buhari
The presidency often says Buhari is embarking on these trips to cajole foreign investors into plunging their money in the Nigerian economy.
However, Nigeria’s economy doesn’t appear to have benefited immensely from the president’s many travels.
The economy recorded a sluggish 1.9 per cent growth year-on-year in the third quarter of 2019; a figure lower than the initial World Bank projection of 2.2 per cent.
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to Nigeria has fluctuated on Buhari’s watch as well.
FDI dropped 27 per cent to $3.4 billion in 2015, rose to $4.44 billion in 2016, plunged to $3.5 billion in 2017 and dipped to $1.9 billion in 2018, according to data obtained from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
According to the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), foreign portfolio investors pulled out N1.87 trillion in assets during Buhari’s first term.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, says the outcome of President Buhari’s latest visit to Russia “is the best response to a few skeptical audiences back home, including a toxic newspaper editorial asking him to not travel.
“Presidents Buhari and Vladimir Putin opened a new chapter in the historically important relationship between the two countries.
“They both agreed to expand cooperation in the energy sector, petroleum and gas, trade and investment, defence and security, mining and steel development, aluminium and phosphate, education and agriculture and a plethora of other issues.
“Could this have been achieved if he had locked himself inside the Aso Rock Villa? The answer is obviously a “no.”
The private visits to London
President Buhari’s ‘private visit’ to the UK will be his second in 2019. In April, President Buhari embarked on a 10-day private visit to the UK.
Here are all the times Buhari has traveled to the UK on ‘private visits’ since he was sworn-in for a first term in office in 2015.