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EXCLUSIVE: Junketing Communications Minister, Pantami Disregards Buhari’s Directive, Travels To 9 Countries Within One Month With Wives

EXCLUSIVE: Junketing Communications Minister, Pantami Disregards Buhari’s Directive, Travels To 9 Countries Within One Month With Wives
December 1, 2022

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami has embarked on trips to at least nine countries in the last one month.

This was in complete disregard of President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive, SaharaReporters has gathered.

In a bid to curb leakages and ensure efficiency in the management of public resources, President Buhari, in 2019, approved the immediate implementation of additional cost-saving measures aimed at instilling financial discipline and prudence, especially as regards official travels.

According to a statement issued by the Office of Secretary to the Government of the Federation at the time, all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are now required to submit their Yearly Travel Plans for statutory meetings and engagements to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and/or the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation for express clearance within the first quarter of the fiscal year, before implementation.

They are further required to make their presentation using the existing template and also secure approvals on specific travels as contained in the plan, from the appropriate quarters.

On the nature and frequency of travels, the statement said all publicly-funded travels (local and foreign) must be strictly for official purposes backed with documentary evidence.

“In this regard, all foreign travels must be for highly essential statutory engagements that are beneficial to the interest of the country.

“Except with the express approval of Mr. President, ministers, permanent secretaries, chairmen of extra-ministerial departments, chief executive officers and directors are restricted to not more than two (2) foreign travels in a quarter.

“When a minister is at the head of an official delegation, according to the statement, the size of such delegation shall not exceed four including the relevant director, schedule officer and one aide of the minister.

“Every other delegation below ministerial level shall be restricted to a maximum of three,” the statement said.

For Class of Air Travels, President Buhari approved that ministers, permanent secretaries, special advisers, senior special assistants to the President, chairmen of extra-ministerial departments and chief executive officers of parastatals who are entitled would continue to fly business class while other categories of public officers are to travel on economy class.

“Also, travel days will no longer attract payment of Estacode Allowances as duration of official trips shall be limited to only the number of days of the event as contained in the supporting documents to qualify for public funding,” the statement further read.

While ministers are restricted to not more than two foreign travels in a quarter (three months), SaharaReporters gathered that Pantami has travelled to nine countries in the last one month.

It was also learnt that he embarked on some of those trips with his two wives.

A source in the government said, “Pantami in one month has travelled to 9 countries, forcing the government to pay for him and his family members for some of these trips.

“He was in Egypt last week, he travelled to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates despite a visa ban on Nigerians. He begged the ambassador and he and his two wives travelled there. He was also in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

“He followed the President to South Korea and he was in Dubai again for Gitex and also Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. He was also in other countries.

“He has been doing nothing but going on excessive travels and threatening those in charge to pay for his travels. But again, why should we complain when he is learning from his master, the president, going on fruitless travels and doing nothing?

“Even for his book launch, he forced some departments and agencies under him to pay enormous amounts of money to the media so that his pre-book publicity and book launch will be the biggest in the country. Unfortunately, it was a wasted effort because no one heard about the book or can remember the title.

“He spent over N9.7m in one of the MDAs on pre-publicity of his book. When did a personal book launch become the job of a government agency? It is unfortunate that the deceit of this man is going unchecked.

“Now, his mission is running between Nuhu Ribadu, who tried to marry his cousin to him, and some people in Atiku Abubakar’s camp to see how he will be retained as minister or ambassador. At least, a prominent scholar in Bauchi has started calling out the hypocrisy of this man who is using the beautiful religion to deceive people and achieve his personal ambition.

“He is scheming to position and renew people’s tenure before their time in MDAs under the ministry so that they can cover his dirt in case he does not return.”

Atiku is the presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party.

According to the Buhari-led government, the 2022 budget has a deficit of over N7 trillion, and debt servicing has surpassed revenue this year.

Personnel costs for top government officials, and civil servants and the overhead costs of thousands of offices are amongst the areas where the government spends the most on, drawing calls for reduced cost of governance.

Capital projects that are meant to benefit the majority of the populace have received fewer funds over the years.