President Muhammad Buhari will be attending the 70th United Nations General Assembly in New York accompanied only by 21 delegates, according to a source at the Presidency in Abuja.
The lean delegation pales in comparison with what had become the junketing tradition of Nigeria’s delegations to the annual event.
A list obtained by SaharaReporters shows that President Buhari will be accompanied by the Governors of Kaduna, Niger and Cross River states. Also on his entourage are former governors Rotimi Amaechi and Kayode Fayemi. The Senator from Katsina, Hadi Sirika and a former member of the House of Representatives, Abike Dabiri, are also in the group.
Others on the plane to New York include Major General Monguno (Rtd), the National Security Adviser; Femi Adesina, the Presidential Special Adviser on Media; Sarkin Abba Kalu, Special Adviser Household Matters; Lawal Kazuare (State Chief of Protocol), Nura Rimi, Presidential Liaison Officer; Lt. Col M. L Abubakar (Aide de Camp); Bashir Abubakar, Chief Security Officer; Sabi’u Yusuf (Personal Assistant); ACP Abdukarim Dauda, Dr. Suhayb Sanusi Rafindadi, Chief Personal Physician; and Ya’u Abdulahi, Chief Detail.
SaharaReporters has also learned that Buhari's official delegation will be staying at the UN Millennium Hotel, located only a few blocks from the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan.
It would be recalled that in 2013, over 600 persons accompanied President Goodluck Jonathan to New York. When SaharaReporters reported on the scandalous figure, Reuben Abati, who was then the spokesperson to President Jonathan, denied our story. However, in September 2014, Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Bashir Wali, confirmed the story in a widely televised press conference.
So reckless and unaccountable had Nigeria’s participation become that SaharaReporters also found out in 2013 that the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, had taken luxury suites in two hotels: the Four Seasons, as well as the Pierre Hotel where President Jonathan lodged. She and her delegation also rented eight luxury limousines that were parked in front of the Four Seasons throughout her stay, but only four of them were used.
In 2014, President Jonathan was forced to cut down the size of his delegation but his team was still large enough to take up 145 luxury rooms at the UN Millennium Hotel, and 40 suites at the Pierre.
For his first visit to the General Assembly as elected leader, President Buhari reportedly received meeting requests from about 21 world leaders, but he will only be able to meet with the Presidents of Brazil, Russia and Poland; former US President Bill Clinton, Microsoft Founder Bill Gates and Poe Frances.
His aides told SaharaReporters that President Buhari will also be skipping the meeting scheduled with Nigerians in the Diaspora, all functions with non-governmental organizations, and the traditional dinner with the business community.
The president is expected to return to Nigeria on September 29 in time for Nigeria’s Independence Day celebrations on October 1.