COP28: FG may have spent over N1bn on flights alone for 422 delegates

ESTIMATES by The Internation Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), from its independent findings, have shown that the Nigerian Government might have spent N1.09 billion on round-trip flights for all participants it sponsored to the ongoing COP28 Climate Summit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). 

Following uproar from Nigerians on social media, questioning why the Federal Government funded ‘1,411 delegates’ to the event amidst the prevailing economic hardship the nation faced, the Information Minister, Mohammed Idris, clarified that the government only sponsored 422 persons.

According to Idris, Nigeria’s representation aligns with its status as Africa’s leading sovereign voice and player in climate action.

The minister also noted that several delegates were sponsored by the state governments and civil society organisations, among others.

Still, Nigerians have continued to condemn the sponsorship of 422 delegates representing the country, citing the country’s current economic downturn.

Upon close observation of the list, The ICIR also discovered that some delegates labelled as government officials did not have a climate portfolio or direct responsibility that justified their attendance at the conference.

To arrive at the estimated funds spent on the participants by the Federal Government, The ICIR checked through a travel website, Wakanow, for the average cost of a round trip within a week from Lagos to Dubai. The results from five airlines showed an average cost of N2.5 million. 

Airline Amount
Egypt Air 2,135,854
Qatar Airways 2,213,394
South African Airways 2,616,580
Ethiopian Airlines 3,027,297
Kenya Airways 2,918,094

(The cost of a trip to and from Lagos to Dubai in one week on Wakanow)

Screenshot showing the flight fee from Lagos to Dubai
Screenshot showing the flight fee from Lagos to Dubai

Using the average cost of N2.5 million above as an estimate, it translates to spending N1.09 billion for flying 442 people from Nigeria to Dubai from Lagos Airport. 

This amount excludes feeding, per diem, transport allowance, and other benefits the government or the host country provides for attending the conference.

Reacting to our findings, Celestine Okeke, a social critic and associate consultant at the British Department for International Development (DFID), described sponsorship as ‘embarrassing.’ He noted that the President Bola Tinubu-led administration had not shown the capacity to cut the cost of governance.  

“The key thing for me is that this government has not shown it has the ability to cut the cost of governance. It has not shown the ability to use results efficiency principles. It has not shown the ability to do things differently. And they are not bothered about the numbers. 

“Generally, what are the components of the supplementary budget sent to the National Assembly? It is buying cars and renovating offices and all of that. The result efficiency principles were not used here, in terms of scarce resources and what really should be into.”

He noted that he would have expected the government to consider the current economic hardship and send no more than 50 delegates to the conference.  

“I think that the most they would have done is to send key policy officials, not more than 50, and come back and speak on whatever they learn. They can have two or three days of debriefing where other people who are there now can come and hear what they have to say. 

“The whole thing is embarrassing to me, to say the least. And we are borrowing funds to fund the budget and now from that to now pay people to go and attend a conference, I don’t think that makes sense to me.”

    On her part, the Executive Director of Atune Ngun Foundation, a climate foundation advocating for deforestation and oil spillage in the South-South, Eme Okang, said it was difficult to justify spending such a significant amount of money on sending a large delegation to a conference, especially during a time of economic travails.

    She added that the funding raised questions about the government’s priorities and whether the funds could have been better used to address pressing domestic issues.  

    “In light of recent borrowing by the government, spending a large amount on a climate change conference may not be viewed favourably. Many people may believe that a smaller, more cost-effective delegation could have represented the country at the conference without such a hefty expense.”

    She noted that it was important for the government to carefully consider its spending decisions and prioritise the country’s needs during challenging economic times.

    Usman Mustapha is a solution journalist with International Centre for Investigative Reporting. You can easily reach him via: [email protected]. He tweets @UsmanMustapha_M

    Kehinde Ogunyale tells stories by using data to hold the government into account. Shoot him a mail at [email protected] or Twitter: Prof_KennyJames

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