COPA28: TINUBU UNDER FIRE FOR TRAVELLING WITH 1,114 CONTINGENT
4th December 2023
By Chinelo Obogo, Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye and Adanna Nnamani, Abuja
President Bola Tinubu has come under fire after it emerged that Nigeria’s contingent to the Climate Change Conference (COPA28) holding in Dubai is 1,411, making him the Africa leader with the highest entourage, and the third largest representation of foreign delegates after China and Brazil.
Nigerians have been expressing their anger, particularly on social media, about the large Nigerian delegation attending the event, which also drew over 97,000 participants from over 100 countries of the world.
A look at the data from the CoP28 organisers’ registration platforms revealed that 1,411 Nigerians had registered to attend the event with many Nigerians suggesting they were all funded by the Federal Government; a claim the Presidency has rebuffed.
According to carbonbrief.org, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has the largest-ever registered delegation of any country with 4,409 badges followed by Brazil with 3,081 and then China and Nigeria, which have issued 1,411 badges. Nigeria’s delegate rose from the 169 delegates that attended from Nigeria last year.
In contrast, Kenya’s President, William Ruto, reduced his delegates from 189 to 51. The conference, which started on Thursday, November 30, and would end on Tuesday, December 12, is an avenue for governments to agree on policies to limit global temperature rise and adapt to impacts associated with climate change.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change showed that out of the 1,411 that Nigeria registered as delegates, 590 were sponsored by the Federal Government. They include the president, 25 ministers, the chief of staff, five directors general, several directors, deputy directors, assistant directors, and officials with different titles. Others were allegedly sponsored by the state governments, nongovernmental and corporate organisations. The Federal Government would have spent not less than N850 million for flight tickets alone for the 590 persons, which excludes hotel accommodation and other expenses.
- Obi decries it as showmanship
Reacting to the development, many Nigerians took to social media to condemn President Tinubu’s actions. The presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) in the 2023 election, Peter Obi, in a series of tweets via his X handle, described the president’s actions as wasteful and an unnecessary showmanship, where Nigeria is competing with China on the size of delegations. He said the vast majority of those in the Nigerian delegation were either non-relevant civil servants or relations, friends, and hangers-on of high government officials, and most of them hardly understand or have anything to do with climate change.
“In a twist of sad irony, let me congratulate the giant of Africa, Nigeria, for matching the great China with the same number of contingents at the ongoing COP28 in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates. Nigeria’s contingent to COP28 totaled 1,411, the same number as the Chinese contingents. While China’s budget for 2024 is about $4 trillion, about $2,860 per head; Nigeria’s budget is about $33 billion, about $165 per head. China has a high Human Development Index (HDI) with a ranking of 79 out of 191 countries measured and Nigeria has a low HDI, with a ranking of 163 out of 191 countries measured. Nigeria has more people living in ‘multi-dimensional’ poverty than China, despite the fact that China has seven times Nigeria’s population.
“Most importantly, the vast majority of those in the Nigerian delegation to COP28 are either non-relevant civil servants or relations, friends, and hangers-on of high government officials. Most of them hardly understand or have anything to do with Climate Change. This huge contingent is at public expense, and at a time when most Nigerians can hardly afford food and basic needs as a result of economic hardship. I pray earnestly that a day will come soon enough when we can focus on competing with China on productivity and the miracle of migrating the highest number of its citizens out of poverty over a relatively short time.
“As we have kept emphasizing, we must stop waste as an addition to our government and nation. We urgently need to cut the cost of governance and invest in production. We need to tie spending to necessity and national priority, pointing out that a New Nigeria is possible but we only need to do the reasonable and the necessary.”
An X user, Akintunde Babatunde, said: “The average cost for an individual to attend COP is about $4k. With 821 official party delegates from Nigeria, that is about $3.2 million. Well, that is average knowing that Nigerian officials are extravagant with state money. The cost will definitely be higher than this! I have been to COP countless times, so I can tell you for a fact that I know how this works. Nigeria registered over 1400 delegates out of which 821 are party or official delegates. If you’re an NGO, what you get is a party overflow badge.”
- Presidency faults critics
The Presidency, in a piece titled ‘Nigeria at COP28: Separating the facts from fiction,’ by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Temitope Ajayi, said President Tinubu and other senior officials of his administration attended the significant international event for serious business, and not for jamboree.
He said: “The people coming together to advance their different agenda and interests from governments, businesses and civil societies, are the parties to the convention who represent various shades of opinions and push for various mitigating actions.
“In Nigeria, like in so many other countries, interested parties, comprising government officials from both the federal and sub-national governments, business leaders, environmentalists, climate activists and journalists, are present in Dubai.
“Also, participating are agencies of the government such as the NNPC and its subsidiaries, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, NIMASA, and the NDDC. Many youth organisations from Nigeria, especially from the Northern and Niger-Delta regions, whose lives and livelihoods are most impacted by desert encroachment and hydrocarbon activities, are also represented.
“The President of Ijaw Youth Council, Jonathan Lokpobiri, leads a pan-Ijaw delegation of more than 15 people who registered as parties from Nigeria. Among delegates from Nigeria are over 20 journalists from various media houses.
“Their participation is very important. It is not for jamboree as it is being mischievously represented on social media.
“It is important to state here that delegates from all countries, whether from government, private sector, media and civil society groups attend COP summits and conferences as parties and the number of attendees are registered against their countries of origin.
“This does not mean that they are sponsored or funded by the government. It must be said also that the fact that people registered to attend a conference does not mean everyone that registered is physically present.”
Ajayi also emphasized the significance of Nigeria’s participation in CoP28 and noted that President Tinubu has not only reaffirmed the importance of treating Nigeria and Africa fairly during the energy transition process, but also taken advantage of the occasion to broker agreements and entice new commitments from various spheres of influence.
“Like former President Muhammadu Buhari and other African leaders, who demanded fair deal and climate justice for Africa at previous UN climate summits, President Tinubu is leading the charge at COP28 on behalf of Nigeria and the rest of the continent, demanding from the West that any climate decision and action must be fair and just to Africa and Nigeria in particular, especially the debate around energy transition.
“President Tinubu has been unequivocal in his position that Africa, which is battling with the problems of poverty, and security, and struggling to provide education and healthcare to her people, cannot be told to abandon its major source of income, which is mostly from extractive industries, without the West providing the funding and investment in alternative and clean energy sources.
“President Tinubu and other officials on the federal government delegation are in Dubai for serious business not jamboree. Our president has been very busy representing our country well. Since Thursday morning when he arrived in Dubai, President Tinubu has spent not less than 18hours daily in attending very important sessions, pushing our national agenda while holding bilateral and business meetings on the sidelines.”