Mounting Concern on Buhari’s Habitual Foreign Trips  

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Nseobong Okon-Ekong and Chuks Okocha write that the frequent travels by President Muhammadu Buhari outside the country, at the least excuse, has raised a lot of concern from critics who think there are more pressing assignments for him at home
President Muhammadu Buhari returned to Nigeria a few days ago from South Africa, the country where hundreds of Nigerians were hurriedly uprooted and had to come return home following a season of hate riots that targeted them. The President went to South Africa a few days after returning from a session of the United Nations General Assembly in the United States of America.
The South African trip has been the subject of much criticism from many quarters who feel that President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa had more compelling reasons to visit Nigeria than Buhari heading to South Africa. The Nigerian President has been portrayed as one who welcomes every opportunity to travel out of his country, even when the circumstance is demeaning like the recent South African trip.
Similar negative publicity trailed Buhari’s recent visit to Japan, where elements of the Independent Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) tried to dent the country’s image with public protest against the Nigerian President’s visit to Japan.
Some critics have argued that Buhari’s love for foreign trips is being exploited by his aides who must accompany him, so that they can draw from the statutory allowances and other fringe benefits that accompany such trips. They also argue that the President was voted to go to work in Nigeria and not spend the better part of his tenure abroad.
Countries so far visited include Cameroon, China, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, India, Iran, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sudan , United Arab Emirates, Chad, Germany, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, The Gambia, Benin Republic, France, United Kingdom and United States of America. Buhari has so far visited close to 40 countries cutting across four continents, including Africa. Some of these countries have welcomed the Nigerian President on multiple occasions.

 Buhari has visited 16 African countries, seven Asian countries, five European countries and one country in North America.

Further scrutiny revealed that the United States of America and the United Kingdom rank tops on the list of visits by the Nigerian President followed by France, Chad and Saudi Arabia.

Other countries that have received Buhari and his entourage more than once  include Niger, China, Germany, South Africa, Benin, Ghana, United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Senegal and Gambia.

The countries President Buhari visited once include Cameroon, India, Sudan, Iran, Malta, Ethiopia, Qatar, Equatorial Guinea, Morocco, Mali, Poland, Jordan, Liberia and Japan.

Since the country returned to constitutional democracy in 1999, Nigerian Presidents have shown a propensity for foreign travels.  Buhari visited close to 40 countries. 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 from 1999 -2007.

Nigerians judged former Presidents Jonathan and Obasanjo harshly for their numerous foreign trips while in office.

In 2012, ex-President Jonathan travelled out at least 20 times. This prompted a comparison between him and Obasanjo, who was widely publicised as one of the most travelled presidents, clocking with an impressive 93 foreign trips within his first three years in office.

Obasanjo reportedly spent, no less than,  340 days outside the country during his Presidency and travelled 400 times between 1999 and 2007.

Every Nigerian ruler has canvassed the same excuse for frequent travels out of the country. During the Obasanjo years, the explanation was that the country had just emerged from a totalitarian rule. Nigeria was largely estranged from the civilised world at that time, therefore, Obasanjo needed to repair the poor image of the country by embarking on these shuttle diplomacy.“

According to Obasanjo, “I travelled extensively, canvassing global understanding and our mainstreaming into the new world order, not only for Nigeria, but for the whole of Africa. By the time I finished my two-terms, I had travelled to 97 countries.”

Replying to criticism of Buhari’s frequent foreign trips, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu said that “those trips by the President are not jamborees, but for the good of the country.”

He said further that the President embarked on the trips to negotiate with foreign countries on how to repatriate stolen funds stashed in foreign accounts abroad, to seek assistance from world leaders in his administration’s fight against corruption, promote trade and investment as well in the quest to revitalise the country’s dilapidated infrastructure in the areas of rail, power and roads and other critical sectors.

Spokesman of the main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Kola Ologbondiyan described Buhari’s frequent travels as wasteful. He said his travels have not resulted in increased direct foreign investments into the country, but the loss of businesses and jobs.

Buhari will spend a total of N1 billion on local and foreign trips in the 2019 fiscal year.

In the N8.9 trillion 2019 budget, N751 million was budgeted for travelling around the world while N250 million was budgeted for local trips.
The President would also spend N164.1 million on honorarium and sitting allowance, as well as N25.7 million on meals and refreshments. The Office of the President would also spend N8.5 million on the purchase of books in the 2019 fiscal year.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is estimated to spend N217 million on foreign travels and N83 million on local travels.
QUICK FACTS:
* President Buhari has so far visited close to 40 countries cutting across four continents, including Africa. Some of these countries have welcomed the Nigerian President on multiple occasions

*Buhari has visited 16 African countries, seven Asian countries, five European countries and one country in North America.

*Since the country returned to constitutional democracy in 1999, Nigerian Presidents have shown a propensity for foreign travels
* 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 from 1999 -2007

*Buhari will spend a total of N1 billion on local and foreign trips in the 2019 fiscal year

*In the N8.9 trillion 2019 budget, N751 million was budgeted for travelling around the world while N250 million was budgeted for local trips
*The President would also spend N164.1 million on honorarium and sitting allowance, as well as N25.7 million on meals and refreshments
*The Office of the President would also spend N8.5 million on the purchase of books in the 2019 fiscal year
*Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is estimated to spend N217 million on foreign travels and N83 million on local travels