President Muhammadu Buhari has spent more than 40 days in trips to different parts of the world since he was sworn in on May 29, 2015. The president’s frequent foreign trips have come under scrutiny and criticism as Nigeria faces myriad crises, from intractable fuel shortages to terrorist assaults in the country’s northeast.
An audit of Mr. Buhari’s itinerary by our team of reporters discovered that the Nigerian president has traveled to Chad, Germany, France, Ghana, India, Iran, South Africa, Cameroon, Iran, and twice to the United States of America.
Critics of the president’s junkets state that the trips have consumed a significant amount of cash in a country that is beset by a considerable financial crunch, a result of a deep dip in Nigeria’s earnings from oil exports. The president’s foreign trips represent a drain on Nigeria’s meager resources, with travel allowances to members of the presidential entourage, payments to pilots, aircraft maintenance and fueling as well as hotel accommodation and other sundry expenses.
By contrast, Mr. Buhari has made very few official trips within Nigeria. Our research indicates that President Buhari has made official trips to a relatively few number of states, including Cross Rivers, Kaduna and Adamawa states. The president also visited Ogun State just yesterday to attend the burial of Mrs. Hannah I.D. Awolowo, wife of the late Nigerian political leader, Obafemi Awolowo.
In addition to visiting his home state of Katsina, Mr. Buhari has also recently visited Kebbi State recently where he launched a N20 billion ‘Anchor Borrowers’ program initiated by the Central Bank of Nigeria for rice farmers across the country.
Opposition critics accuse President Buhari of engaging in wasteful international junkets, adding that he has taken to attending conferences that should have been assigned to his political aides, permanent secretaries or ministers.
Past Nigerian presidents also established a fascination with foreign trips, often at times when domestic problems within the country cried for attention. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo set the tone, spending much of his first term as president on junkets around the world. The lone exception was the late Umaru Yar’Adua who did very little traveling during his short-lived administration but spent long periods ensconced in hospitals in Germany and Saudi Arabia on the account of a terminal disease that eventually took his life.
SaharaReporters had also done detailed reporting of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s penchant for foreign trips. Mr. Jonathan often took huge numbers of aides and other political figures as part of his contingent during his trips. In one instance, Mr. Jonathan’s delegation to a meeting of the United Nation’s General Assembly topped 600 people. In addition, his wife, Patience Jonathan, also spent considerable time abroad, sometimes for medical treatments that were concealed from the Nigerian people.
Mr. Buhari’s critics question the wisdom of his high volume of foreign trips at a time when Nigeria is mired in one of its worst fuel shortage crises in years. The fuel shortage has also been compounded by a sharp drop in electric power supply in Nigeria. A business executive in Abuja told SaharaReporters that most businesses in the country are badly affected by the fuel and power crises, adding, “The Buhari administration has got to act quickly before companies are forced to shed huge numbers of their employees in order to stay afloat.”
In addition to the lingering fuel and electric power problems, members of the Islamist insurgent group, Boko Haram, have stepped up attacks in the northeastern zone of Nigeria.
Meanwhile, Mr. Buhari is set to travel for another four days starting from tomorrow to attend the Commonwealth Heads of State meeting in Malta as well as a short visit to Paris for another conference.