The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has criticised Nigeria’s large delegation of 1, 411 persons to the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). PDP alleged that the country’s “over-bloated” delegation to the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) brimmed with President Bola Tinubu’s “cronies, political minions and their mistresses at huge expense to the nation”.
Also, the presidential candidate of Labour Party (LP) in the 2023 election, Mr. Peter Obi, also condemned Nigeria’s extraordinarily big team at the ongoing conference. Obi advised the federal government to build Nigeria’s capacity to compete with China, which, reportedly, also came with a similarly huge delegation as Nigeria, in production, rather than waste national resources on sponsorship of too many delegates to a specialised conference of experts.
This is just a Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity, Tope Ajayi rose to the defend the large delegation, insisting their participation was very important and not a jamboree.
Although, it was found that many of the people in Nigeria’s delegation to COP28 were from the private sector and may have paid their way to the conference, nevertheless, PDP, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, said the bloated delegation was a further confirmation that the Tinubu-led All Progressives Congress (APC) administration was wasteful, frivolous and reckless in the application of the scarce resources of the country. PDP regretted that the waste was especially at a time Nigerians were yearning for prudent management of resources to achieve the desired infrastructure regeneration, job creation and revamping of the economy.
PDP dismissed attempts by the presidency to rationalise the bloated delegation by trying to hide under genuine sub-national officials, businesses, journalists, and civil societies that travelled at their own expense.
Ologunagba said in the statement, “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 institutionalisation 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.
“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.”
Similarly, Obi, in a series of posts on his X handle yesterday, in reaction to the trending large Nigerian delegation to COP28, decried the waste and wrong imitation of a country dutifully pulling their people out of poverty.
Reports from Dubai indicated that Nigeria equalled China with 1,411 persons at the conference, the highest in the global event, aside from the host, UAE.
In a satirical response to the size of Nigeria’s contingent, Obi said, “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 COP28 totalled 1,411, the same number as the Chinese contingents.”
The LP candidate noted that while China’s budget for 2024 was about $4 trillion, about $2,860 per head; Nigeria’s budget was 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.
Besides, Nigeria has more people living in “Multi-Dimensional” poverty than China, despite China having seven times Nigeria’s population.
Obi stated, “Most importantly, the vast majority of those in the Nigerian delegation to COP28 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 its citizens out of poverty over a relatively short time.
“As we have kept emphasising, 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-emphasise 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.”
Presidential Aide: Separating the Facts from Fiction
Writing against the background of widespread public criticisms, Mr Tope Ajayi stated that
It was important to set the record straight and provide some clarity. below are excerpts:
To begin with, the Summit is tagged COP which means Convention of Parties. The ongoing Summit in Dubai with over 97,000 delegates from more than 100 countries around the world is the 28th in the series since the issue of climate change and action took preeminent stage in global affairs. COP27 took place at Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt last year.
When the world comes together to take actions on achieving 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. The people coming together to advance their different agenda and interests from governments, businesses and civil societies are the parties to the convention who represent various shades of opinions and pushing for various mitigating actions.
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 NNPC and its subsidiaries, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, NIMASA, NDDC. Many youth organisations from Nigeria especially from the Northern and Niger-Delta regions whose lives and livelihoods are most impacted by desert encroachment and hydrocarbon activities are also represented. 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.
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 be said also that the fact that people registered to attend a conference does not mean everyone that registered is physically present.
As the biggest country in Africa, biggest economy and one with a bigger stake on climate action as a country with huge extractive economy, it is a no-brainer that delegates from Nigeria will be more than any other country in Africa.
Among the delegates from Nigeria are UBA Chairman, Tony Elumelu, Abdul Samad Rabiu, Chairman of BUA group, 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. And because climate issue is the biggest global issue of the moment, it is not surprising that over 97,000 people including Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, King Charles of United Kingdom, Prime Minister of Netherlands, Mark Rutte, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, US Special Envoy on Climate Change and former Secretary of State, John Kerry, President Bola Tinubu, United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, World Bank President, Ajay Banga, International Monetary Fund President, Kristalina Georgieva, World Trade Organisation Director General, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Africa Development Bank President, Akinwumi Adesina, former US Vice President and Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Al Gore and almost 100 Heads of States and Governments converged on Dubai for COP28. It is the first of its kind in the history of the summit because of the importance of climate change to global well-being.
After the opening and national statements by Heads of States which began from November 30 when the summit opened and up until Saturday December 2, 2023, the real work of COP28 which are the technical sessions and negotiations, financing, etc will begin from Monday, December 4 till December 12 where agreements will be reached on many proposals for consideration and ratification by the parties.
Those with sufficient understanding and knowledge on climate matters know that issues around the subject have layers and multiplicity of factors that require experts from various fields. There are lined-up technical sessions on financing climate actions at sub-national levels, regions and local governments. State Governors from Nigeria such as Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos, Dapo Abiodun of Ogun, Umo Eno of Akwa-Ibom have been really busy with their officials at COP28, making presentations, speaking at panel sessions and pitching some of their sustainability projects to development partners and investors.
Multifaceted stakeholders from different countries including Nigeria are on ground in Dubai because they don’t want decisions that will affect them to be taken without pushing their own agenda. It is the reason delegates from China and Brazil are over 3000 respectively. China is one of the world biggest polluters and Brazil is at the centre of global climate debate with her Amazon rainforest. These two countries know important decisions that will affect them will be taken and they have to move everything to be fully on ground and ensure they are fully represented by their best brains at every level of discussion and negotiation.
Like former President Muhammadu Buhari and other African leaders who demanded fair deal and climate justice for Africa at previous UN Climate summits, President Tinubu is leading the charge at COP28 on behalf of Nigeria and the rest of the continent, demanding from the West that any climate decision and action must be fair and just to Africa and Nigeria in particular, especially the debate around energy transition. President Tinubu has been unequivocal in his position that Africa that is battling problems of poverty, security and struggling to provide education and healthcare to her people can not 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. 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 18hours daily in attending very important sessions, pushing our national agenda whilst holding bilateral and business meetings on the sidelines.