If you followed the protests that greeted the removal of fuel subsidy in January by the Goodluck Jonathan administration and his subsequent national broadcasts to assuage the feelings of Nigerians who were worse hit by the sudden announcement on new year’s day, then, this statement shouldn’t be new to you:
“I have directed that overseas travels by all political office-holders, including the President, should be reduced to the barest minimum. The size of delegations on foreign trips will also be drastically reduced; only trips that are absolutely necessary will be approved.”
Has president Jonathan kept to his words on foreign travels and the size of government delegation on such trips? A PUNCH report indicates the president faltered on his promise as several billions of naira of taxpayers’ money have been expended on foreign trips since then.
The findings show that the President and his entourage have spent not less than N3.354bn on foreign trips since 2010.
For instance, in the first 11 months of 2012, the President had travelled out of the country at least 20 times, including his trip to Sierra Leone in October and the D8 Summit he attended in Pakistan in November.
In September alone, Jonathan travelled out of the country four times. He travelled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for a two-day visit on September 1 for the burial of late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
Nine days later, he went to Malawi and Botswana in a cumulative three-day visit for enhancement of bilateral relationships. The President ended the month of September with another trip to New York, United States for the United Nations General Assembly
From February, 2010 when he became the Acting President to December 2010, Jonathan spent N970.891m on foreign travels.
Although the 2011 budget was silent on the expenses for the President’s foreign travels, investigations showed that about N1.7bn was spent on such trips.
According to the 2011 budget, N1.145bn was budgeted for Vice-President Namadi Sambo’s foreign trips.
In 2012, N684.74m was budgeted for Jonathan’s foreign travels and he had travelled out of the country 19 times.
Although the 2013 budget recently submitted to the National Assembly by Jonathan suggested that N2.6bn would be spent on his foreign trips next year, investigations have shown that much more than the quoted figure will be spent and is being spent judging by the expenses the country incurs during such trips.
The expenses incur include and are not limited to airfares for members of the President’s delegation who will travel on commercial flights, cost of procuring travel visas for them, estacodes for members of the delegation, fuelling of the presidential jets as well as other logistics.
Only the President and his very top aides fly on the presidential jets.
Culled From PUNCH