Still On COP28: Jamboree, Profligacy Or Serious Business? By Bolanle BOLAWOLE

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My piece titled “COP 28: Jamboree, profligacy or serious business” has attracted so much traffic that I am constrained to return to the topic so soon. Two “thieves” are usually crucified on both sides of the Nigerian government or president, one on the right and the other on the left, as was done to Jesus Christ. One is the politician; the other is the journalist! Let me not hazard a guess which of the two is nailed to the Cross on the right or on the left!
This shows clearly how much the public expects from the journalist. It is alright for everyone else to abdicate their duty and responsibility and expect the journalist alone to carry the Cross. He must run after every thief of the common patrimony. He must hold the government accountable to the people. He must expose and investigate every malfeasance. He must follow up on each and every scandal as they unfold per second per day. And he must satisfy the demands and idiosyncrasies of everyone, regardless of how divergent and conflicting they may be!
The person whose criteria he meets praises him; the one he fails to satisfy vilifies him. The next minute the shoe can be on the other foot and the one who shouts “Hosannah” today may be the first to scream “Crucify him” tomorrow! In the eyes of many members of the public, journalists are bought by corrupt politicians and sundry scoundrels on a daily basis. Once a journalist writes what does not meet their grain, he has been bought! For how much, they do not care or are unable to say!
Whatever you write that catches their fancy is objective; whatever does not is subjective. But I was taught in university that there are no absolute truths and that objectivity is relative. Intrinsic in every so-called objectivity is a tinge of subjectivity. This obtains with everyone, and not with journalists or writers alone. Anyone with a glass chin will find it difficult to stand the media trial and public crucifixion that have become the order of the day in Nigeria of today, especially on social media.
Are you surprised that media men and women themselves also suffer media trials? And the attack comes from different angles! There are the political partisans; they shoot you down when whatever you write does not conform to their political views or stand. Touch their political idol and they literally set you ablaze! There are the naïve and uninformed; those who ignorantly but innocently think the cumulative damage of 24 years done to this country since 1999 can be arrested and reversed in six months. All they know is what they want. There are the knowledgeable ones whose vision, sadly, has become blurred by the suffering in the land. They are too preoccupied with what they see that they are too tired to envision what lies ahead. Then there are the clear-headed patriots – but they are few.
Most unfortunately, the cabals in government are not helping matters; they keep spending money as if it is going out of fashion: yet, they mouth platitudes and expect the public to silently watch. A period of six months, I must say, is not enough to reverse all the damage done to this country but it is enough to cut away from the recklessness of the past and move in the right direction for all to see. Regrettably, we can count one, two, three, four, five, six or more reckless spending of this government, the last one being the COP28 Climate Change summit in Dubai, which has attracted an outrage from Nigerians.
When the news first broke, full disclosure was not available, and this is a minus for the government. It is better to act proactively than be reactive. Take the wind off the sail of your opponents by releasing the needed information upfront. That way, you are better able to manage the events that follow than when you run after the news. Too much misinformation and disinformation attended the COP28 controversy. Sheer propaganda and slanting of the news to cause disaffection as well. Now, let us see the disclosure that came after the controversy broke.
 An online media outlet has this to say: “The federal government is spending at least N2.7 billion to sponsor delegates to attend the United Nations’ annual climate summit, COP28… Nigeria has 1,411 delegates, ranking third among countries with the highest numbers of delegates at the meeting. Only the host country, UAE (4,409), and Brazil (3,081) have more participants than Africa’s most populous country. Other delegations surpassing 1,000 participants include China which registered 1,411 people just like Nigeria, followed by Indonesia with 1,229, Japan with 1,067 and Turkey with 1,045.
“Parties to this Convention from Nigeria include government officials, representatives from the private sector, civil society, the voluntary sector, state governments, media, multilateral institutions, representatives of marginalized communities, and many others… Minister of Information, Mohammed Idris, released a statement on Monday saying the federal government-sponsored delegation ‘is made up of a total of 422 persons’, not 1,411 as widely speculated. He broke down the figure as 167 participants from all Ministries and 73 persons from Federal Parastatals/Agencies. The Presidency has 67 officials; the National Assembly, 40; the Federal Ministry of the Environment, 34; the National Council on Climate Change, 32; and nine participants from the Office of the Vice President…
“Of the 1,411 delegates, 422 were sponsored to attend the conference by the federal government… On average, the estimated cost of a to-and-fro flight ticket from Nigeria to Dubai is N2 million. At this rate, the cost of a two-way flight ticket for 412 people will amount to N824 million. President Tinubu and at least 10 officials travelled with the presidential jet while the rest of the 412 delegates are estimated to have taken commercial flights. The figure could be higher given that a number of officers travelled on business-class tickets, which are more expensive than economy class tickets used for our computation…
“Aside from the cost of a flight ticket, the federal government gives estacode to each traveler depending on their level. Ministers are paid $900 per day as estacode which amounts to $11,700 per minister for the 13-day period the conference would last. At the official market, one dollar is currently exchanged for N816. This means a minister will get N9.5 million as estacode during the conference. About 26 ministers are attending the conference, according to official data from the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
“This means the government will spend at least N248 million on allowances to ministers. The federal government is also sponsoring 40 members of the National Assembly to Dubai. The estacode for a senator is $950 per night while that of a Member of the House Representatives is $900. On average, this also amounts to $11,700 per lawmaker for the 13 days the conference would be held. This will cost the government N381 million on estacode for the National Assembly participants.
“Then, there are 13 Special Advisers to the president on the delegation. The president’s advisers are entitled to $800 estacode per night, meaning each of the special advisers attending the conference will receive $10,400 for the period of the conference. Using the official rate of N816 per dollar, this amount is equivalent to N110 million. The list contains 14 Director-Generals of various agencies including the National Council on Climate Change, the National Intelligence Agency, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency, the National Emergency Management Agency, the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, and the National Agency for Great Green Wall. The estacode of a Director General is $500 per night. This means each of the 14 DGs attending COP28 will receive $6,500 for 13 days, totaling $91,000. At current prices, this amount is equivalent to N74 million.
“Permanent secretaries get an estacode of $500 per night; Officers of levels 15-17 receive $425; Levels 7-14 get $381; and levels 1-6 get $206… More than 300 other government officials will receive estacode including the chief of staff, ambassadors, permanent secretaries, several directors, deputy directors, assistant directors, and other officials with different titles on the attendance list.
“Assuming we have 100 officials on levels 15 – 17 attending the conference in Dubai, the government will spend $5,525 on each of them in estacode for the period. The total of this amount when converted to naira is equivalent to N450 million. Then, if there are 100 officials on levels 7 – 14, the government will give each of them $381 per night, totaling $4,953 for the period of the conference. The total amount for this category is equivalent to N404 million. If there are 100 officials on levels 1-6 as part of the delegates, then each of them will also get $206 per night, totaling $2,678 for the 13 days of COP28. This amount is equal to about N218 million…”
My hunch: 1. This year’s COP28 was a waste of resources by most of the countries involved, Nigeria inclusive, as the delegation across board was unprecedented. It must be because Dubai hosted it! 2. Nigerians reacted angrily to the large delegation because of the hunger and anger in the land. We are a poor and impoverished country that behaves to the contrary. The government must carefully take notice of the mood of the nation. 3. The Presidency would have saved itself much trouble if it had allowed the National Assembly, ministries, agencies and parastatals to foot their respective bills; after all, they have their own separate budgets. 4. There is the urgent need to dust up the Osayande Report, reduce the number of MDAs and drastically cut down the cost of governance. 5. Henceforth, no government official on official assignment must fly anything more than economy class with public funds. 6. Estacodes, which former President Muhammadu Buhari insensitively skyrocketed for public officers, must now be reasonably down-sized to reflect the state of our economy. 7. As much as lies within our powers, let us look inward and shun overseas junketing. We have actually benefited not much from it in Foreign Direct Investment. Let our envoys abroad represent us where necessary. 8. Where we must necessarily send delegations abroad, let moderation be the watchword. The mood of the nation and the size of our purse demand this.
Finally, let the family, friends and sides of this President help him by staying away from scandals and controversies – for I believe they truly love him and seek his good! For whatever reasons, Nigerians appear to be waking up from their age-old slumber and are beginning to hold their government’s feet to the fire. They must not let go!As the scriptures say, if we faint not, we shall one day begin to reap the fruits like the other mature democracies do!
turnpot@gmail.com 0705 263 1058
Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director/ Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper on Wednesdays. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.

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