President Buhari’s frequent foreign trips
Since assumption of office on May 29, 2015, President Muhammad Buhari has made at least 20 foreign trips to 15 countries including the latest trip to Equatorial Guinea, last week.
While some critics have described the numerous foreign trips of President Buhari as frivolous and of no value to a nation facing multiple crises, others are of the view that such trips are means of restoring Nigeria’s battered image in the international community.
Some Nigerians are of the valued opinion that as the country navigates through economic labyrinth, the president should minimize such trips to avoid waste of scarce resources.
According to this group, a single presidential trip costs the nation millions of naira considering the legion of political associates and cabinet ministers that usually accompany the president on such trips.
Though, there is no clear figure on the amount used to finance each foreign trips, it is alleged in some quarters that over a billion naira has been expended on estacodes and allowances in the 20 trips within a period of eight months in office.
However, Information Minister, Mr. Lai Mohammed and other unalloyed supporters of the president have argued that Nigeria was becoming a “pariah state” under former President Goodluck Jonathan, and Buhari’s frequent foreign trips seek to reverse that status and drive investment.
After a recent Federal Executive Council meeting, Minister for Environment, Amina Mohammed, told journalists: “You do not run a country by being isolated and the personal presence of the president in many of these fora is very important because before now we were almost a pariah state and the two things that have been driving investments away from this country are terrorism and corruption.
"One thing that nobody can fault this president on is his determination to fight these two ills. Mr. President’s presence in these fora is very crucial even to the economy back at home. Before now the level of corruption was very high that nobody was ready to risk his investment in Nigeria. The cost of doing business was so high that most international businessmen didn’t want to come here. Who is coming to invest in a country where there is insecurity?"
No doubt, the Information Minister has spoken well to justify the president's trips, but he should be reminded that before now, Nigeria runs "bread and butter economy" and what matters to the average Nigerian is food on the table.
It is therefore incumbent and important for the government to speedily demonstrate that these bilateral agreements attract investment with a return worth the while by addressing some of the dire crises the nation is faced with. Anything short of this is playing to the gallery.