President Buhari’s Hypocrisy Of Slashing Ministers’ Estacodes & Travelling Allowances

By Ikenga Chronicles October 24, 2019

President Buhari’s Hypocrisy Of Slashing Ministers’ Estacodes & Travelling Allowances

–By Muyiwa Olayinka

President Muhammadu Buhari in a bid to cut down overhead costs in governance announced he has passed a directive to reduce the number and duration of foreign trips for ministers and other categories of government officials in a move described as ‘cost-saving measure’ to achieve fiscal prudence.

The statement reads, “In a bid to curb leakages and ensure efficiency in the management of resources of government, President Muhammadu Buhari has approved for immediate implementation, additional cost saving measures aimed at instilling financial discipline and prudence, particularly in the area of official travels. “Henceforth, all ministries, departments and agencies are required to submit their yearly travel plans for statutory meetings and engagements to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and or the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation for express clearance within the first quarter of the fiscal year before implementation.

“Also, when a minister is at the head of an official delegation, the size of such delegation shall not exceed four including the relevant director, schedule officer and one aide of the minister. “Every other delegation below ministerial level shall be restricted to a maximum of three.

“Travel days will no longer attract payment of estacode allowances as duration of official trips shall be limited to only the number of days of the event as contained in the supporting documents to qualify for public funding.”

While some may see this as cheering news and applauded the move, I view this with skepticism and an act of playing to the gallery. My position hinges on the fact that as a leader, President Buhari should lead by example in cutting down on his foreign travels and huge costs expended associated with it.

President Buhari has travelled to many nations since he was sworn in on May 29th 2015. According to Punch editorials which I quote “ his appetite for adventure took him to China, India, Jordan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Chad, France, Turkey, Poland, Malta, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Ghana. Others are Cameroon, the Gambia, Niger Republic, Mali, Qatar, Sudan, Ivory Coast, Togo, Republic of Benin, Germany, Senegal, Ethiopia, Egypt and Kenya in his first 36 months in office”. This excludes 103 days he spent from May 7 to August 19 2017 on a yet to be disclosed ailment in United Kingdom, and the Presidential jet was parked at the tarmac incurring thousands of British pounds sterling at the expense of tax payer’s money. The amount spent is yet to be disclosed to the nation.

Before he was sworn in for second term, he was in Saudi Arabia between May 16 and 21 for the lesser Hajj, and few hours after he took oath of office, Buhari junketed back to the same country for reasons unknown to him.

The President has also travelled to Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), New York for the 74th UNGA, Japan (for the seventh International Conference on African Development) and South Africa (on xenophobia) from May to October.

Presently Mr. President is currently in Sochi Russia for three day summit on gas and trade. One must take into consideration the cost associated to a large contingent of officials such as advance team, security and top government functionaries that accompany him anytime he leaves the shores of the country.

It is also noteworthy that a total of N3.327bn is allocated for him and his deputy (Vice President Osinbajo) for local and foreign travels in the budget estimate for the year 2020 submitted to the National Assembly.

Mr. President is yet to fulfill his campaign promise of selling off nine aircrafts in the Presidential fleets that have constituted as drain pipes on Nigerian scarce resources. Unfortunately his many travels have not contributed largely to foreign direct investments. According to United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), foreign direct investment had fallen 27% to $3.4b in 2015, risen in in 2016 to $4.44bn plunged again to $3.5bn in 2017 and to $1.96bn in 2018.

As the saying goes, “Charity begins from home”, President Buhari might as well start from his office (Aso rock) before considering putting a peg on minister’s expenditures on foreign travels. I don’t think this is too much to ask for especially with dwindling resources accruing to all tiers of government.