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PIJALANCE MAGAZINE

TIMELINE: + Seoul Visit Buhari has Spent Over 256 Days in Foreign Countries With About N1.6 billions

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Enoch Oyedibu

 

Barring any last-minute change, President Muhammadu Buhari will at the end of October leave Nigeria for Seoul, South Korea and London, United Kingdom, PIJAlance Magazine has gathered.

 

According to a presidential source, the President will be travelling to Seoul at the end of the month on a five-day official visit.

 

He is expected to leave the Asian country after the event for London where he will be seeing his doctors at Royal Brompton Hospital situated at Sydney St, London SW3 6NP between 1-2 November, 2022.

 

“President Muhammadu Buhari is scheduled to depart Abuja for Seoul, South Korea on a 5-day official visit to the Asian country,” a source told PIJAlance Magazine correspondent.

 

“The President who wanted to visit Doha, Qatar last month but was snubbed by the Qatari leader is poised to go on a merry-go-round around the world between now and his eagerly awaited exit from power in about 7 months.

 

“From Seoul, Buhari will proceed to London where he is scheduled to undergo a medical procedure at the Royal Brompton Hospital situated at Sydney St, London SW3 6NP, between November 1 and 2, 2022,” Sahara reporters noted.

 

The latest trip by Buhari comes a few months after Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Emir of the State of Qatar declined a request by the Nigerian President to visit the country.

 

Al Thani holds the most powerful position in the country and has a prominent role in foreign relations.

 

The Nigerian government had proposed September 11 and 12, 2022 for Buhari to visit the country but the Emir in a note verbale exclusively obtained by SaharaReporters said the dates were not suitable for him and asked for other dates in 2023.

 

“The Embassy of the State of Qatar in Abuja presents its compliments to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Regions Department) and with reference to the latte’s Note M 403/2022 dated 12/08/2022 informing that H.E Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has accepted to visit Qatar on 11-12 September 2022 on invitation of H.H Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, Emir of the State of Qatar,” a note verbale sent from the Qatar embassy on August 19 had read.

 

“Has the honour to communicate that the proposed dates for the visit are not suitable and kindly request the Nigerian side to propose other dates for the visit during the first quarter of the year 2023.

 

“The Embassy of the State of Qatar avails itself of this opportunity to renew to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Regions Department) the assurance of its highest consideration.”

 

However, a presidential source blamed the State Chief of Protocol (SCOP), Amb. Lawal Kazaure and his team for the rejection.

 

“Actually, it was the Emir that invited President Buhari to come and visit him. Unfortunately, his team didn’t follow the usual diplomatic channel to accept and propose alternative dates,” the source had claimed.

 

“After over 3 months without a word, the State House wrote directly to Qatar Embassy in Abuja to inform that President Buhari wants to visit from 11-12 September 2022. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was not involved. Our Embassy in Doha, capital of Qatar was not also consulted.

 

“Unfortunately, the President was snubbed and asked to come next year. They know there will be a newly elected president by that time. It’s a way of telling him, he’s not welcome again. The initial plan was to proceed to New York for UNGA (United Nations General Assembly) from Doha.”

 

Buhari, despite announcing several cost-cutting measures as a way of reducing the cost of governance is known for junketing across the world.

 

He has embarked on over 12 international trips in 2022 and spent at least 44 days outside Nigeria.

 

On February 15, 2022, the Nigerian leader embarked on a trip to the Belgian capital, Brussels, where he participated in the 6th Europe-Africa Summit.

 

About a week before the Belgium trip, Buhari joined his African counterparts in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the 35th Extra-ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads and Government of the African Union.

 

In March, the President visited Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, where he participated in the 50th anniversary of the UN Environmental Programme before returning to Abuja, and later jetted out to London, the United Kingdom, for a medical trip that lasted for about two weeks.

 

On May 9, Buhari embarked on a trip to Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, to attend a United Nations conference on the future of land regarding desertification, drought, degradation, rights, restoration and implications for national and world economies.

 

Ten days later, he was in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, on a condolence visit to its new President, Sheikh Mohamed Al Nahyan, on the passing of the former president and ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa Al Nahyan, Sahara reporters, noted.

 

On May 27, the President departed Abuja for Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, to participate in the African Union Extra-ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government with a special focus on security.

 

On June 4, he visited Accra, Ghana, to attend an extraordinary summit of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government on the political situation in Mali and other parts of the sub-region.

 

On June 22, President Buhari departed Abuja for Kigali, Rwanda, to attend the 26th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, which was held from June 20 to 26, 2022.

 

In July, he departed Abuja for Dakar, the Senegalese capital to participate in the International Development Association for Africa Summit.

 

The trip came barely 24 hours after terrorists attacked his convoy in Katsina, the President’s home state and the Kuje prison facility in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

 

Also, two police officers were killed in the state where the attack on the president’s convoy took place.

 

 

Buhari: The Presidential Tourist.

 

Buhari also recently went to Lisbon, Portugal for a state visit and this has clocked his twelfth international trip in 2022.

 

This is half the time it took him to make the same number of foreign trips last year.

 

The ICIR noted that of this time last year, the President had made only two international trips, but his travel circuit took a drastic turn in the last quarter of 2021 where he recorded eight overseas jaunts.

 

According to Nigeria’s 2022 budget, Buhari will spend N1.5 billion on his foreign travels this year, N200 million less than the N1.7 billion budgeted for his international journeys in 2021.

 

However, the President has already reached the number of total foreign trips made in the whole of 2021 and is likely to make more international travels before the year ends.

 

It would also be recalled that Buhari had announced several cost-cutting measures as a way of reducing the cost of governance and shoring up the country’s dwindling revenue.

 

The President has embarked on 20 international trips between the last quarter of 2021 and the first half of 2022 cumulatively. He has spent at least 41 days outside Nigeria this year alone.

 

Buhari’s travel destinations within this period include; Addis Ababa, Belgium, Gambia, Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, France, Kenya, Portugal, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and The United Kingdom (UK), as earlier listed.

 

The President made more than one trip to countries like Addis Ababa, UAE and the UK during this period and some Nigerians have dubbed him “minister of foreign affairs” as a result of his frequent international travels.

 

 

With the 77th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 77) scheduled to hold on 13 September, there remains a possibility that President Buhari might embark on more foreign trips before the end of 2022, raising questions about whether his travel budget has been exceeded.

 

Earlier this month, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, accused Buhari of squandering taxpayers’ resources on meaningless, insatiable international trips.

 

“The meaningless foreign trips of President Muhammadu Buhari which have no economic benefits are disturbing. These trips must stop as they are not exigent and are aimed at squandering taxpayers’ resources and for the President to find a phantom alibi for his monumental incompetence and rudderless political leadership style.

 

“Buhari and his deputy have spent over N10 billion on foreign trips in the last seven years while the Academic Staff Union of Universities has perpetually been on strike, demanding their rightful entitlement.

 

“It is more reprehensible that the President can be junketing many countries of the world while Nigeria faces educational, economic, energy, and severe security crises of all times,” HURIWA’s National Coordinator Emmanuel Onwubiko said.

 

 

Timeline of The Medical Traveller, Racing to Tour the world within 7 Months Remaining in Office

 

Buhari has spent over 200 days in UK for treatment since assuming office. By the second week of August, when the president is due back, he would have spent over 200 days in London on official medical trips.

 

Less than 15 weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari returned from London where he had gone to receive medical attention, he has returned to the UK for “a summit and scheduled medical follow-up.”

 

As usual, Mr Buhari’s publicists did not disclose what the medical follow-up is for, only noting that the president will be in the UK until the second week of August.

 

The last medical trip to the UK is Mr Buhari’s seventh since he was first sworn into office on May 29, 2015.

 

By the second week of November, when the president is due back from Seoul and London, he would have spent about 200 days in foreign countries, especially in London on official medical trips.

 

In effect, therefore, for every ten days Mr Buhari has been in office as Nigeria’s president, he has spent one day in London for health treatment.

 

Of late, Mr Buhari’s spokesperson, Femi Adesina, was asked on Channels TV if the well-funded Aso Rock clinic could not cater for the medical needs of the president, his response was that “President Buhari has used the same medical team for about 40 years.”

 

He added that: “Once you can afford it, it’s advisable you stay with the team that has your medical history.”

 

 

Premium Times noted that the Nigerian leader, who coasted to a historic victory in 2015, took his first vacation only eight months after coming to office. He spent six days in London between February 5 and 10 in 2016.

 

His second medical trip came on June 6, 2016. He travelled for 10 days to England, seeking further treatment for an ear infection. The president extended his trip by three days before coming back on June 19, 2016.

 

 

By January 19, 2017, Mr Buhari wrote to the Nigerian Senate, one he had a frosty relationship with at the time, disclosing his intention to travel abroad on a 10-day vacation and that he would hand over to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

 

 

Although the letter said he would commence the vacation on January 23, 2017, Mr Buhari departed Nigeria on the same day he wrote the lawmakers.

 

On March 10 of that year, exactly 50 days after his departure, Mr Buhari returned but was not able to resume work immediately.

 

Less than two months after, the president embarked on another trip to London for another medical checkup. Although his aides would not confirm what he was treated for, they urged Nigerians to pray for him.

 

Mr Buhari returned after 104 days, amidst misinformation about the true state of his health.

 

 

A year after his longest trip yet, Mr Buhari travelled to London in May 2018 for a “four day medical review.”

 

Towards the end of March, this year, the president flew to London to take “a short rest” – one that lasted for 15 days and which the presidency had earlier described as “routine medical check-up.”

 

 

While in the UK in April, resident doctors in Nigeria, commenced an indefinite strike due to the nonpayment of some allowances.

 

Nigeria’s resident doctors are also on strike at present, while the president is in the UK on a medical trip.

 

Nigeria’s poorly equipped hospitals while Mr Buhari and members of his immediate family routinely travel for medical treatment in the UK, Nigerian hospitals battle with inadequate equipment and inadequate funding.

 

Nigerian doctors announced their plans to commence a nationwide industrial action from Monday, August 2, accusing the federal government of failing to implement a Memorandum of Action (MOA).

 

The strike action is already grounding activities at the nation’s tertiary hospitals.

 

Nigerians have for decades suffered from a fragile health system, ill-equipped clinics and poorly paid and overworked health workers, many of whom have moved abroad to seek greener pastures.

 

In the UK, the Nigerian president’s preferred medical destination, there are at least 8,192 medical doctors of Nigerian origin working there, according to data from the UK General Medical Council, over 50 per cent increase from 2015.

 

 

The president’s reluctance to patronise Nigerian doctors could be a catalyst for the exodus of doctors from the country, analysts believe, which should be worrisome for a country that has one doctor for every 5,000 people, as estimated by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN).

 

Similarly, PREMIUM TIMES reported how medical tourism has been estimated to cost Nigeria over N576 billion ($1.2 billion) yearly, a part of that by the Nigerian leader, although the government never discloses the cost of Mr Buhari’s medical trips.

 

This year, Nigeria will spend 7 per cent of its budget on healthcare, a fraction of the 15 per cent target set by the African Union.

 

Like Mr Buhari, many other African leaders perpetually travel on medical tourism. In 2016, Africans spent over $6 billion on outbound treatment, and their leaders accounted for a large share of that amount.

 

Many African leaders have historically shunned local hospitals and instead sought treatment abroad.

 

For example, Patrice Talon, the president of the Republic of Benin, underwent surgery in France a few years ago.

 

Robert Mugabe, who ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years, often travelled to seek eye-related treatment in Singapore.

 

Jose Eduardo dos Santos who stepped down as Angola’s leader after 38 years, also travelled to Spain for treatment.

 

PREMIUM TIMES also reported how the then Prime Minister of Ivory Coast, Hamed Bakayoko, died in March while receiving treatment at a German hospital.

 

Above all, none of the trips bring meaningful growth to Nigeria.

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