Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Bashir Wali, has confirmed that President Goodluck Jonathan did lead a massive 600-man delegation to the United Nations General Assembly last year, as reported at that time by SaharaReporters.It was the world’s largest, he also confirmed. He described the size of Nigeria’s delegations to the General Assembly every year as “embarrassing.”
Mr. Wali, a former Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations, made the startling disclosures yesterday in Abuja while addressing heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
In the Minister’s words, 80% of the people in the delegation have no business being on them, and do not add any value.
SaharaReporters broke the story on September 22, 2013, disclosing disclosed that the delegation included including an inner circle of about 26 people. It was bloated by about 547 civil servants drawn from the MDAs, who overran some of New York City’s priciest hotels.
Our story was immediately denounced by presidential spokesman Reuben Abati as lacking “substance,” and “a continuation today by Saharareporters.com of its usual scurrilous and baseless attacks” on Mr. Jonathan’s administration.
“There is also no substance to the rehashed charge of profligacy which Sahara reporters annually make against the President when he leads Nigeria’s delegation to the UN General Assembly,” he said in a statement, asserting that the delegation was “less than 30” persons.
“Other than them, the only other persons who are in New York for the UN General Assembly with the President’s knowledge and approval are relevant ministers and few essential aides,” Abati said, adding that Mr. Jonathan’s delegation was not out of proportion with Nigeria’s size, role and relevance in Africa and the global community.
“Sahara Reporters’ claim that the President’s delegation is the largest at this year’s General Assembly is an unjustifiable fabrication which can never stand any rigorous test of truthfulness,” the spokesman said. “We are certainly aware that many Nigerian citizens are currently on visits to New York. These persons are here for their own purposes and neither President Jonathan nor his administration has any responsibility for the presence of these persons in New York.
“We will not be surprised if it is such persons who include Nigerian businessmen who are here for an African Business Roundtable event, members of non-governmental organizations and tourists that SaharaReporters has been counting, for the sole purpose of mischief-making, as “members of the Nigerian delegation,” he also said.
Mr. Abati dismissed what he called “SaharaReporters’ usual fare of mischief, outright falsehood and erroneous speculation,” saying he wanted to “affirm for the benefit of the unwary that there is absolutely no truth in the allegation that the President took a 600-man delegation to New York.”
Shoving Abati’s very words back at him, Ambassador Wali’s remarks not only vindicated our report, it put it in perspective.
“The size of Nigeria’s delegation to the United Nations General Assembly last year was 567; that is something that is certainly way, way out; certainly it is unacceptable. On that basis I asked that they send me the list of three countries: Germany, South Africa and Egypt, to compare with what we in Nigeria have. None of them is up to one third of our own delegation,” the Minister said.
He regretted that not even China with a population of over one billion people can compare with the number of delegates that Nigeria sends to the event annually, confirming that Nigeria did have the largest of all the delegations to New York in 2013.
What is worse, the ambassador observed that 80 per cent of Nigeria’s vast delegations to the General Assembly do not add any value to the team’s work at the assembly.
“So, you can see that there is certainly need to really take a second look and see that those of our delegates that go the UN General Assembly do have value. It is not a question of having a jamboree, but indeed, it is more like a jamboree.
“I happen to have observed for four years as Nigeria’s ambassador to the UN, the delegation of Nigeria to the UN General Assembly. So, I know and if we are going to be honest to ourselves, I know that 80 per cent of the delegates that go from Nigeria do not add value to our team to the UN.”
Mr. Wali assured that his ministry was working to ensure that the country has value for money, stressing that there ought to be some measure of accountability and responsibility on the part of Nigeria’s delegates.
He is now awaiting the approval of President Jonathan to place a ceiling on the number of delegates that will be in New York this year, he said, declaring that Nigeria can “certainly” not afford a 567-man delegation.
“It is certainly something we will have to take a second look at again and see how we can look credible when it comes to issues like this,” the minister said.
It is an open secret that Nigeria’s public servants seize every opportunity to travel abroad on bogus official assignments, including meaningless workshops, seminars and conferences, as a ruse for collecting generous travel allowances known as estacode. Some of them do not even bother to show up at such events, preferring to shop, visit relatives or attend to other private businesses.
The 69th General Assembly opens next Tuesday, September 16. The annual general debate will begin the following week, and President Jonathan is expected to be there.
Nigeria’s 2014 budget proposal presented to the National Assembly on December 19, 2013 by Finance Minister Ngozi Ikonjo-Iweala showed capital expenditure of only 27 percent of the total. The other 73 per cent would go into feeding the recurrent monster, including greedy and corrupt officials.
OUR ORIGINAL STORY: President Goodluck Jonathan Leads 600-Man Delegation To United Nations General Assembly
Nigeria, which has failed to focus on implementing the United Nations Millenium Development Goals, is sending a record 600-man delegation to the 68th General Assembly in New York which will focus on a follow-up plan, SaharaReporters investigations reveal.
The delegation is led by President Goodluck Jonathan, who will speak at the plenary debate on Tuesday. It includes two state governors and the First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan.
Most members of the delegation are 547 civil servants drawn from Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), as well as advance team members who arrived in New York earlier to make preparations for the trip of the President.
The Nigerian delegation is by far the largest of any nation at this year's UN event, the theme of which is: “Post-2015 Development Agenda: Setting the Stage.”
SaharaReporters findings show that President Jonathan’s inner entourage comprises 26 people, including security aides, his wife, doctor and political associates.
The Nigeria leader, who has been much-criticized for squandering resources and for failing to lead by example, arrived in New York today and is staying at the lavish The Pierre Hotel across from New York’s Central Park in a presidential suite that will cost Nigeria at least $10,000 per night. This means his tab for accommodation alone, for one room, will hit at least $50,000.
According to the hotel’s documentation, the 39th floor presidential suite, which features an expansive living room and two bedrooms, among others, may be combined with other rooms and suites to provide up to 6 bedrooms and a private floor, an opulent option Mr. Jonathan is likely to have jumped at. According to the hotel’s itinerary which was seen by Saharareporters, he is booked for five nights.
Several other members of the Nigerian delegations are booked in hotels around the city by the Nigerian consulate and staff members of some of the ministries that arrived in advance.
Nigeria has become internationally-known for wasting valuable development funds on lavish foreign trips. It would be recalled that during last year’s United Nations General Assembly, for instance, the Minister for Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, booked into two rooms in two different expensive hotels. One of them was a $5,000 per night suite at the Four Seasons Hotel at 57 East 57th Street, and the other a 28th floor room at the Pierre for $3,000 per night. It was unclear how she slept in two different hotels at the same time.
In addition, Ms. Alison Madueke’s delegation of seven from her Ministry also rented 10 limousines, at a cost of $1,800 per day, some of which were never used.
As SaharaReporters reported last year, the profligacy of the Nigerian delegation attracted the attention of America’s National Broadcasting Corporation in New York, which reported on how African delegates from the poorest countries stayed in some of the most expensive hotels during the UN General Assembly and shopped in high-priced retail stores.
Mr. Jonathan will commence his official duties in New York this afternoon by engaging in an all-expenses paid lunch date with Nigerian professionals selected by Nigerian diplomats in the US. The invitation-only event was chosen after the President and his inner circle abandoned a Town Hall plan for fear of protesters in the New York area.
SEE TEXT OF REUBEN ABATI'S REBUTTAL BELOW:
STATE HOUSE PRESS RELEASE
PRESIDENT JONATHAN NOT IN NEW YORK WITH 600-MAN DELEGATION
We have noted with regret the continuation today by Saharareporters.com of its usual scurrilous and baseless attacks on the Jonathan Administration with publication of a false claim that the President is leading a 600-man delegation to the 68th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
While we trust that discerning members of the public who are already very familiar with Sahara Reporters’ usual fare of mischief, outright falsehood and erroneous speculation will rightly dismiss this latest claim as a fresh manifestation of the online medium’s ill-will towards President Jonathan and his administration, we wish to affirm for the benefit of the unwary that there is absolutely no truth in the allegation that the President took a 600-man delegation to New York.
There is also no substance to the rehashed charge of profligacy which Sahara reporters annually makes against the President when he leads Nigeria’s delegation to the UN General Assembly.
The truth is that less than 30 persons arrived in New York with the President this morning as members of his entourage. Other than them, the only other persons who are in New York for the UN General Assembly with the President’s knowledge and approval are relevant ministers and few essential aides.
President Jonathan’s official delegation is definitely not out of proportion with Nigeria’s size, role and relevance in Africa and the global community.
Sahara Reporters’ claim that the President’s delegation is the largest at this year’s General Assembly is an unjustifiable fabrication, which can never stand any rigorous test of truthfulness.
We are certainly aware that many Nigerian citizens are currently on visits to New York. These persons are here for their own purposes and neither President Jonathan nor his administration has any responsibility for the presence of these persons in New York.
We will not be surprised if it is such persons who include Nigerian businessmen who are here for an African Business Roundtable event, members of non-governmental organizations and tourists that Sahara Reporters has been counting, for the sole purpose of mischief-making, as “members of the Nigerian delegation”.
Special Adviser to the President
(Media & Publicity)
September 22, 2013