In their first 100 days in office, President Bola Tinubu and his deputy, Senator Kashim Shettima, have visited at least nine countries, collectively spending 28 days in foreign engagements, Sunday PUNCH can report.
While the President visited Benin Republic, France, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, the UK and India, spending 19 days in all, Shettima represented him in Italy, Russia and South Africa, where he spent nine days.
On June 20, 2023, just over three weeks after assuming office, Tinubu embarked on his maiden trip to France, to participate in the Paris Summit for the New Global Financial Pact during his four days there.
He joined his counterparts to “review and sign a New Global Financial Pact that places vulnerable countries on the priority list for support and investment, following devastating impact of climate change, energy crisis, and aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic,” a statement signed by then-Special Adviser, Special Duties, Communication and Strategy, Dele Alake, read.
Tinubu met with the President and Chairman of the Board of Directors, African Export-Import Bank, Prof Benedict Oramah, and the President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Odile Renaud–Basso, separately where he asserted that Nigeria was open for business and ready to host investments from foreign partners.
He premised this on the ongoing reforms such as the removal of fuel subsidy and the harmonisation of the exchange rate, moves he promised to sustain to attract foreign direct investment.
On Saturday, June 24, he departed Paris for London, the United Kingdom, on a private visit, during which he met with his predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari.
From July 8 – 10, the President was in Guinea-Bissau to attend the 63rd Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States, where he emerged as the chairman of the regional bloc.
In his maiden address, Tinubu warned that terrorism and the emerging pattern of coups in West Africa had reached alarming levels as he demanded urgent, concerted actions. However, two weeks after, soldiers sacked President Mohammad Bazoum on July 26.
In his capacity as Chairman of ECOWAS, Tinubu was in Nairobi, Kenya, from July 15 to 17 to participate in the Fifth Mid-Year Coordination Meeting of the African Union, the Regional Economic Communities, the Regional Mechanisms and the African Union Member States.
At the summit, he stressed that the forces that plundered Africa in the past and still seeking to impede its progress today would not find it easy because the continent was now strong, and its leaders would no longer remain passive as they harnessed their vast resources to better their respective countries.
President Tinubu’s first foreign ceremonial engagement began in the neighbouring Republic of Benin on August 1, 2023, when he honoured an invitation from his counterpart, Patrice Talon, to attend the country’s 63rd independence anniversary.
Afterwards, he did not embark on foreign trips for over a month.
Sunday PUNCH learnt that this allowed him to organise his cabinet of at least 45 ministers.
As of the time of filing this report, the President is in New Delhi, India, to participate in the G-20 Leaders’ Summit held from September 10 to 11.
Tinubu, who arrived in India on September 5, is attending the two-day summit on the special invitation of the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, read.
Ngelale said the President would leverage the platform to attract foreign direct investments in key labour-intensive sectors of the economy for job creation and revenue expansion.
While meeting Indian business moguls, Tinubu thanked the investors for significant investment pledges of nearly $14bn.
“We are ready to give you the best returns for investment possible; there’s nowhere else like our country. Nigeria offers the best returns for investment today, so invest now,” Tinubu told the business leaders from the pharmaceutical, power, petrochemical and agricultural sectors.
He is expected to return to Abuja on September 11, after which he would depart for New York, United States, ahead of the 78th United Nations General Assembly, beginning September 19.
It would be his first UNGA as President.
Meanwhile, Shettima was in Rome, Italy, from July 23 to July 26 to represent the President at the first Stocktaking Moment Summit themed ‘Transforming Food Systems for People, Planet and Prosperity’.
During the Summit, Shettima chaired a high-level session on ‘Innovative financing for food system transformation: The case of Nigeria and a side event on Scaling up multi-stakeholder collaboration and Investment in the Implementation of Food Systems Transformation Pathways in Nigeria’, a statement by the Director of Information, Office of the VP, Olusola Abiola, read.
From Rome, the VP proceeded to St. Petersburg, Russia, for the Russia-Africa Summit held from July 26 to 29. He also participated in bilateral meetings with representatives of relevant Russian senior government officials and business leaders to discuss relations between Russia and Nigeria.
On August 21, Shettima arrived in South Africa to represent the President at the 15th BRICS Summit of Heads of State and Government at the Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, scheduled for August 22 to 24. He is however expected to visit Havana, the Cuban capital, in September.
The trips have raised concerns amongst some Nigerians who believe that the President and his deputy should focus on pressing issues back home rather than globetrotting.
The Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, Auwal Rafsanjani, said though foreign trips come with the job, emphasis must be given to engagements that fetch Nigerians the most value.
He told our correspondent in an interview, “I think it’s essential that the public officials understand that the country does not have the resources to embark on travels without significant economic value to the nation. Within three months, they have embarked on these journeys, even though some results will likely be long-term.
“While we cannot ask public officers to stop traveling altogether, they should also minimise reckless expenses when embarking on some of these trips.”
Also, the Executive Chairman, Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, Debo Adeniran, told Sunday PUNCH that such engagements were necessary to consolidate Nigeria’s place among nations.
He said, “Politicians who just got hold of the reins of governance would want to establish their credibility among nations, expose their agenda, and get endorsements from those that matter in international politics.
“I think they (Tinubu and Shettima) are trying to lay a solid foundation for international relations in tandem with their foreign policies so that maybe their administration will be able to right the wrongs of the past.
“I believe they need some of these trips, especially that of the G-20 in India and the BRICS Summit in South Africa.”
Meanwhile, the Presidency justified the trips, listing the gains of Tinubu’s foreign “missions” across the globe.
In an interview with our correspondent, Ngelale said, “With respect to these very important missions – I call them missions rather than trips because all of them are purpose-oriented.
“The mission to Paris was on the basis of advancing developing regions economically through partnership with the developed world. And out of that, we were able to get to the table with strategic CEOs of international industries and colleague Heads of State for the same purpose.”
While acknowledging US President Joe Biden’s official invitation to Tinubu, he added that the other trips involved Nigeria and West Africa’s security.
He added, “You would recall that we had the unforeseen situation unfold in Niger Republic. And part of leadership is dealing with things being put on your table when you least expect it.
“Sometimes, those things can be heavier than those already on your table. Niger was a major one. It has been a distraction. But Mr President has been up to the task as Chairman of the ECOWAS authority of heads of state and government.
“This is what our President represents internationally, which is why US President Joe Biden has extended an exclusive invitation to President Bola Tinubu. Being the only invitation extended to any African leader, it is a mark of his high regard for the leadership of the President. So, there’s a lot to look forward to.”