The government had said Nigeria’s delegation was only made up of 30 people.
The Nigerian Government has been challenged to publish the official list of its members of delegation and the cost of their trip to the United Nations General Assembly in New York in order to validate its claim that the delegation is made up of only 30 people.
An association of civil society organisations, Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC), in a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Supervising Minister of Foreign Affairs, Viola Onwuliri, said this will give credibility to the government’s denial of reports that its delegation is made up of 600 people and an alarming N6 billion has been expended on the trip.
Making reference to reports on US-based Nigerian citizen journalism outfit, Sahara Reporters and Elombah.com, that the government delegation was 600-member strong and that N6 billion has been budgeted for the trip, CSNAC said the denial by media aide to the President, Reuben Abati, is not convincing enough.
“In a statement issued by the Special Adviser to President Jonathan on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, this morning, the 600-man allegation was debunked and disparaged the online medium as anti-government. The statement further put the delegation at 30-persons official delegate revealing a scanty identity of few members of the President’s delegation while it acknowledged the presence of some private Nigerians whose visit to the US coincides with that of the president and his delegations,” the organisation said.
CSNAC said Nigeria is weighed down by serious issues that require huge financial commitment for the government to allegedly spend so much on a 5-day conference.
“Nigeria is reputed as the country with highest population of out-of-school children; one of the few countries with little chances of meeting the Millennium Development Goals; and heavily dependent on donor funds in the provision of basic necessities of life for its citizens.
The Nigerian government has a history of attending overseas events with bloated delegations and an unnecessary display of extravagance. The country’s delegation to the last Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Australia was criticised for its size and its brazen extravagance.
CSNAC gave the government 7 days to respond to its request.