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Monday, 04 December 2023 07:24

Uproar over Nigeria’s 1,411-man delegation to COP-28

Criticisims yesterday, greeted the high number of delegates Nigeria sent to the ongoing Conference of the Parties, COP28 climate summit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, UAE, at a time of austerity that the Federal Government was urging the citizenry to make more sacrifices.

Nigeria accounts for 0.319 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions but her 1,411-delegation is joint third largest with China, after the host nation-UAE with 4,409; and Brazil, 3,081, followed by Indonesia 1,229; Japan 1,067 and Turkey 1,045.

 

The highest global carbon dioxide emission countries are China (32.88 per cent); United States of America (12.6 per cent); EU 27 (7.28 per cent); India (6.99 per cent); Russia (4.99 per cent); Japan (2.81 per cent); Iran (1.782 per cent), Indonesia (1.797 per cent); Germany (1.75 percent); Canada (1.51 per cent) and Brazil (1.21 per cent).

The official delegations of some top countries to COP28 are USA 159; Canada 187; Japan 255; India 725; United Kingdom 75; and European Union 124.

Recall that Africa accounts for only 4 per cent of global carbon emissions, despite being the continent that will suffer most from climate change.

However, the Federal Government, yesterday, said it was not footing the bills of the 1,411 delegates as COP-28 records put Nigeria’s official figure at 590 and the other 821 as “overflow” participants. 

Picking holes in the number of delegates Nigeria sent to the summit, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, demanded roll call and cost incurred by Federal Government delegates, and also urged the National Assembly to probe the incident. 

In like manner, the Labour Party, LP, and its 2023 Presidential Candidate, Mr. Peter Obi described the action as wasteful noting that it was sad that the Federal Government which ought to be cutting the cost of governance was being wasteful.

It should also be noted that speaking on global warning at the Arewa Joint Committee’s forum in Kaduna during the presidential campaign period, President Bola Tinubu had said: “It’s a question of how do you prevent a church rat from eating poisoned holy communion.

“We need to open our eyes. We need to tell the West, if they don’t guarantee our finances and work with us to stop this, we are not going to comply with their climate change.  They will do it.

“For Nigeria, climate change is not about the perils of tomorrow, but what is happening today.” 

FG not funding all COP28 delegates, says Presidency

However, the Presidency clarified yesterday that only a handful of the 1,411 Nigerian delegates, who registered to attend the COP-28 Climate Summit in Dubai are sponsored by the Federal Government.

It said a bulk of the contingents comprised private sector players such as business people, Civil Society Organisations and delegates from Nigeria’s oil-producing Niger-Delta region.

But Vanguard learned the Federal Government sponsored 589 of the delegates to the summit.

It also argued that the delegates are at the Summit to promote their respective causes and not for a jamboree.

“It is important to state here that delegates from all countries, whether from government, private sector, media and civil society groups, attend COP summits and conferences as parties and the number of attendees are registered against their countries of origin. This does not mean they are sponsored or funded by the government,” a statement signed by President Bola Tinubu’s Senior Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Temitope Ajayi, read.

The response follows social media uproar over the significant presence of Nigerian delegates at the ongoing United Nations Climate Conference (COP28) in Dubai.

While noting that the large contingent from Nigeria is not solely government-funded, Ajayi said: “It is important to state here that delegates from all countries whether from government, private sector, media and civil society groups attend COP summits and conferences as parties and the number of attendees are registered against their countries of origin.

“This does not mean that they are sponsored or funded by the government. It must also be said that the fact that people registered to attend a conference does not mean everyone who registered is physically present.

“As the biggest country in Africa, the biggest economy and one with a bigger stake in climate action as a country with a huge extractive economy, it is a no-brainer that delegates from Nigeria will be more than any other country in Africa.”

He pointed out that because of the significance of the climate conference, stakeholders from Nigeria beyond government are also involved.

They include UBA Chairman, Tony Elumelu; Chairman of BUA group, Abdul Samad Rabiu and other billionaires “whose businesses are promoting sustainability and climate actions through their philanthropies.

“These businessmen and women and their staff who came with them to promote their own business interests are part of the 1,411 delegates from Nigeria. Their trip to Dubai is not funded by the Federal Government.

“United Nations Climate summit, by its very nature, commands attendance of big names from across the world – statesmen and women, politicians, lawmakers, corporate titans, journalists and activists, etc. who promote big global agenda. So, people attend the summit for many reasons,” the Presidency clarified.

Ajayi also explained that when the world comes together to take action to achieve a common goal and proffer collective solutions to a nagging global concern, there are parties involved from government, private sector, civil society, media and multilateral institutions.

He noted: “In Nigeria like so many other countries, interested parties comprising government officials from both the Federal and sub-national governments, business leaders, environmentalists, climate activists and journalists are present in Dubai.”

Also participating are agencies of government such as the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited and its subsidiaries, the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, the Niger Delta Development Commission and many youth organisations from Nigeria, he explained.

“The President of Ijaw Youth Council, Jonathan Lokpobiri, leads a pan-Ijaw delegation of more than 15 people, who registered as parties from Nigeria.

“Among delegates from Nigeria are also over 20 journalists from various media houses.

“Their participation is very important. It is not for jamboree as it is being mischievously represented on social media,” he noted.

Defending Tinubu’s participation at the global summit, the aide said” “President Tinubu and other officials on the Federal Government delegation are in Dubai for serious business not jamboree.

“Our President has been very busy representing our country well. Since Thursday morning when he arrived Dubai, President Tinubu has spent not less than 18 hours daily in attending very important sessions, pushing our national agenda whilst holding bilateral and business meetings on the sidelines.”

The Presidency highlighted the logic behind Nigeria’s participation, stating, “Africa that is battling problems of poverty, security and struggling to provide education and healthcare to her people cannot be told to abandon its major source of income which is mostly from extractive industries without the West providing the funding and investment in alternative and clean energy sources.”

A list of 198 parties (197 countries and the European Union) published by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change showed that the participants include Ministers, Governors, heads and directors of agencies, presidential aides, officials of the National Council on Climate Change, the SDGs office and the members of the organised private sector.

Among those names are President Bola Tinubu, his Chief of Staff, Femi Gbajabiamila, business magnate Mr. Gilbert Chagoury, who was designated as ‘Confidante of Mr President’ and Special Adviser to the President on the SDGs, Mrs Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire.

Around 84,000 on-site and online participants have badges for this year’s Conference of the Parties from November 30 to December 12, 2023.

Closer observation of the document showed that these include 24,488 parties, 880 UN Secretariat observers, 886 UN specialized agency observers, 1,897 IGO observers, 14,338 NGO observers and 3,972 media participants, 28,338 overflows, 6,268 categorised as “other/staff” and 3,074 virtual attendees.

This is nearly double the 50,000 who travelled to Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt for COP-27 in 2022.

Delegation a waste of taxpayers’ money, Obi, LP blast Tinubu

In separate reactions to the number of Nigeria’s participants at COP28, the LP and Obi kicked.

In a series of tweets on his X (formerly Twitter), Peter Obi urged Nigerians to strive to compete with China in the area of production and not on the size of delegations to a specialized conference of experts.

He described the size of Nigeria’s delegation as a misplaced imitation of a country dutifully pulling their people out of poverty.

“In a twist of sad irony, let me congratulate the giant of Africa, Nigeria, for matching the great China, with the same number of contingents at the ongoing COP28 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Nigeria’s contingent to COP-28 totaled 1,411, the same number as the Chinese contingent.

The LP standard bearer noted that while China’s budget for 2024 is about $4 trillion, about $2,860 per head; Nigeria’s budget is about $33 billion, about $165 per head.

China has a high Human Development Index, HDI, with a ranking of 79 out of 191 countries measured, and Nigeria has a low HDI, with a ranking of 163 out of 191 countries measured. Nigeria has more people living in ‘Multi-Dimensional’ poverty than China, despite China having seven times our population.

He further said: “Most importantly, the vast majority of those in the Nigerian delegation to COP-28 are either non-relevant civil servants or relations, friends, and hangers-on of high government officials. Most of them hardly understand or have anything to do with Climate Change.

“This huge contingent is at public expense and at a time when most Nigerians can hardly afford food and basic needs as a result of economic hardship. I pray earnestly that a day will come soon enough when we can focus on competing with China on productivity and the miracle of migrating the highest number of citizens out of poverty over a relatively short time.

“As we have kept emphasizing, we must stop waste as an addition to our government and nation. We urgently need to cut the cost of governance and invest in production.

“We need to de-emphasize unnecessary ceremony and showmanship as a mode of government behaviour. We need to tie spending to necessity and national priority, pointing out that a New Nigeria is possible but we only need to do the reasonable and the necessary.”

Speaking in like manner, the LP Spokesman, Obiora Ifoh described Nigeria’s huge delegation to the event as a continuation of the culture of waste which the All Progressives Congress, APC, administration has become infamous for.

He lamented that the administration is yet to convince Nigerians on what the nation stands to benefit from the Supplementary Budget which President Tinubu signed.

Ifoh said, “It is sad that a government which has been preaching to Nigerians to tighten their belts and sacrifice for the economy to pick up is involved in this wasteful venture. There is no moral justification for the Federal Government of Nigeria to deplete our scarce foreign reserves to sponsor over 1,411 persons on what is obviously a shopping spree for cronies and government apologists.

“Why would a government which is currently engaged in approaching lenders to borrow money to pay salaries and meet other obligations embark on such a waste?

“Nigeria has diplomatic ties with the UAE, we have an embassy, trained and efficient diplomats who if allowed to do their jobs, can provide all the support Mr. President and the ministers of Trade and Investment as well as Foreign Affairs and a number of captains of industries need to fully represent Nigeria at the summit.

“But no. This wasteful administration must fulfill the fantasies of its cronies who are on a constant look out for opportunities to waste public funds.

“Like our presidential candidate in the 2023 election Mr. Peter Obi, has always said, we must end this culture of waste and improve our capacity for production in order to compete at the global stage. We must begin to look inwards to improve our productivity by supporting local businesses, cut the cost of governance and operate a lean bureaucracy in order to ensure Nigerians get real value for money. Then and only then can we be on the path of real growth.” 

PDP demands roll call, cost incurred by FG delegates

On its part, the PDP queried what it described as President Tinubu’s bloated delegation of 1,411 individuals to the COP28 in Dubai.

According to the PDP, the delegation is reportedly brimming with his cronies, political minions and their mistresses at huge expense to the nation.

National Publicity Secre-tary of the party, Debo Ologunagba, in a state-ment, said: “The PDP holds that this incidence is a further validation that the Tinubu-led APC administration is wasteful, frivolous and reckless in the application of the scarce resources of the nation, especially at a time Nigerians are yearning for prudent management of resources to achieve the desired infrastructural regeneration, job creation and revamping of the economy.

“The PDP dismisses the feeble attempt by the Presidency to rationalize the over-bloated delegation by trying to hide under genuine sub-national officials, businesses, journalists and civil societies, who are travelling at their own expense to cover the baggage of cronies, mistresses and other hangers-on associated with the Presidency, who are reportedly attending at government’s expense and have no relevance whatsoever at the Conference.

“Our Party and all well-meaning Nigerians are appalled by the level of profligacy inherent in the APC administration whose actions and policies so far are skewed towards the promotion and institutionalization of corruption.

“The attempt to deceive Nigerians even when the list of the delegation is in the public domain, shows that the APC administration is irredeemably depraved.”

Ologunagba further said: “We ask, why would a country whose citizens are dying daily from inability to purchase necessities be willing to fritter its resources and scarce foreign exchange in such a manner?

“It only points to the fact that this administration is not interested in the good of the generality of our citizens but for a select few positioned to fleece the nation’s resources.

“Our Party challenges the Presidency to come clean by making public the names of the official delegation sponsored by the Federal Government to the Conference, the relevance of such individuals to the Conference and the total cost of such sponsorship on the nation.

“Of course, Nigerians have the list and they know the genuine officials of sub-national governments and other self-sponsored entities at the Conference.

“The PDP calls on the National Assembly, pursuant to its Constitutional duty under Section 88 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) which empowers it to investigate and expose corruption by any organ of Government, to immediately commence investigation into this embarrassing revelation and impose appropriate sanctions on anyone or Institution found culpable in that regard.

“Our Party also demands that President Tinubu should be ready to refund any Federal Government fund improperly spent to sponsor any individual who has no relevance at the Conference. Such funds should be channeled to projects that have direct bearing on the well-being of Nigerians.”

UK commits £100m to assist Nigeria and other countries

Meanwhile, the UK government has committed £100 million to help Nigeria and other vulnerable countries strengthen their resilience to the increasingly frequent and severe effects of climate change at the COP28 Summit.

UK’s International Development and Africa Minister, Andrew Mitchell, said in a statement yesterday that the fund was to support some of the most climate-vulnerable countries tackle climate change.

He said:  “The devastating effects of climate change hit the most vulnerable the hardest.  These funding commitments will help countries and people be better prepared and protected against extreme weather events and natural disasters. 

‘’They will help roll out measures such as early warning systems, and open up access to climate finance to build resilient health services.

“The UK will continue to press for a bold and ambitious approach to support those on the frontline of our changing climate, and to create a safer planet for us all.

“ This will support an initiative to strengthen early warning systems in countries on the front line of climate change, giving people advanced warning of cyclones, flooding and other extreme weather so they can move away from danger, saving lives and protecting vulnerable communities.

“The funding will also help make health care in these areas more resilient and able to withstand disasters, like floods, and ready to deal with spikes in infectious diseases, like cholera and malaria, due to floods caused by climate change.

Recognising the urgency of the situation, which forces 26 million into poverty every year, the Government also joined calls for bolder collective action to protect the lives, health and livelihoods of those most impacted by climate change.

[Vanguard]

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