Despite hardship, Tinubu, vice wasted N8.54bn on travel expenses in three months

Nigerian Concord Newspaper

President Bola Tinubu, Vice President Kashim Shettima, and First Lady Remi Tinubu spent not less than N5.24bn on local and foreign travel between January and March 2024.

An analysis of the travel expenses using GovSpend, a civic tech platform that tracks and analyses the Federal Government’s spending, showed that N1.35bn was spent as provision for presidential trips and other related expenses in three months, N3.53bn was spent on foreign exchange purchase during 10 international trips and N637.85m was disbursed to two travel agencies for the purchase of air tickets for presidential local and foreign trips.

The payment made through the State House transit account to various recipients did not include estacodes of the President’s entourage.

This was as the government spent N12.59bn on maintenance of the presidential air fleet within the same period.

Recall that the President spent N3.4bn on these trips within six months of assuming office.

The figure is 36 per cent more than the N2.49bn earmarked for the President’s travel expenditure in the 2023 budget.

This means a total sum of N8.64bn was spent on local and foreign trips between June 2023 and March 2024.

The report also showed that the president got N650m as an honorarium.

Nigerians have consistently expressed worries over the President’s frequent travels, calling for tangible outcomes from these journeys.

In their first seven months in office, Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu and his Vice, Sen. Kashim Shettima, visited 16 countries, collectively spending 91 days in foreign engagements.

Checks revealed that Tinubu had so far visited Paris, France (twice); London, the United Kingdom; Bissau, Guinea-Bissau (twice); Nairobi, Kenya; Porto Norvo, Benin Republic; New Delhi, India; Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the United Arab Emirates; New York, the United States of America, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and Berlin, German, spending 55 days.

Meanwhile, Shettima represented him in Italy, Russia, South Africa, Cuba, China, and the US, logging 36 days abroad in 2023.

Reacting, a financial expert, Olorunfemi Idris, noted that presidential trips can strengthen diplomatic ties, promote national interests, and attract foreign investment. For instance, President Tinubu’s recent trips resulted in agreements on security, economic development, and climate change, and secured investments in infrastructure and energy projects.

“Presidential trips can foster relationships with other countries, leading to increased cooperation and trade. The president can advocate for Nigeria’s interests on the international stage, securing agreements and partnerships,” he said.

However, Idris also pointed out the high cost of these trips, which can divert funds from essential areas like healthcare, education, and infrastructure development.

“The N8.64bn spent on President Tinubu’s trips in eight months alone could have been used for healthcare, education, or infrastructure development.”

“Additionally, security concerns and the need for extensive arrangements can strain resources. The effectiveness of presidential trips depends on the outcomes achieved and the follow-up actions taken,” he said.

A Professor of Economics, Cletus Agu, also said the most important thing to note was to consider whether or not the money was expended judiciously, saying there was nothing wrong in spending such an amount, especially if it would have positive effects on the economy.

He said, “ What you should ask is why is he spending such an amount? Of what use and purpose? He might be spending N10 million but the impact on the economy may be N100 million. If he is only going from one place to another, that will be terrible because people are suffering now but if he is spending the money with the view to making Nigeria better, and his vision is to improve the economy there is nothing wrong with it. There is a saying that we use money to find money so if he is spending it to improve the economy, there is nothing wrong with it.”

Also, an economist, Dr Akin Akinleye, called on the government to cut irrelevant expenses given the economic situation of the country.

He said, “They have the right to travel but they have to prioritise the economy because the economy is not in a good state in the last few months. They have cut irrelevant expenses. Any traveling that will that will not have any economic benefit to the nation should be dropped.”

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