With few weeks to the end of his first term in office, President Muhammadu Buhari has spent a total of 404 days (a year and 39 days) traveling to 33 countries on four continents in about four years of his first term in office, Saturday PUNCH can report.
The country he visited the most was the United Kingdom where he spent 217 days mostly on health grounds and meetings of Commonwealth Heads of State and Government.
His second most visited country was the United States where he spent a combined 41 non-consecutive days.
He met ex-President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump at different times and also attended the 70th, 71st, 72nd and 73rd sessions of the United Nations General Assembly.
France was the third most visited country with Buhari spending 14 non-consecutive days there. China came fourth with 13 days and Jordan occupied the fifth position with eight days.
Other countries the President visited during the over 46-month period under review included the United Arab Emirates (seven); Morocco (seven); Germany (seven); South Africa (seven); Saudi Arabia (six); India (five); Chad (five); Kenya (five); Turkey (five); Poland (five); and Malta (five).
Others were Senegal (four); Ethiopia (four); Mauritania (four); Netherlands (four); Togo (four); Republic of Benin (four); Côte d’Ivoire (three); Iran (three); Equatorial Guinea (three); Cameroon (two); Ghana (two); Niger (two); Gambia (two); Egypt (two); Qatar (two); Mali (one); and Sudan (one).
Incidentally, the President did not visit any country in South America.
Apart from medical reasons, the President was out of the country to seek security assistance, improve on the nation’s economy and trade, and seek support for his fight against corruption.
Findings showed that while the President was able to build an alliance with neighbouring countries to curb the activities of Boko Haram, his travels did not translate much to Foreign Direct Investment except in 2016.
Nigeria attracted $3.4bn in FDI in 2015 and saw a huge boost in 2016 with the nation getting $5.1bn.
However, in 2017, the nation’s FDI took a sharp decline, dropping to $3.5bn, and to $2.2bn in 2018. Ghana surpassed Nigeria in 2018 as it drew $3.3bn.
Breakdown of Buhari’s travels in 2015
Shortly after his inauguration, Buhari on June 3 and 4, 2015 traveled to the Republic of Niger and Chad Republic for consultations on how to tackle terrorism in the country and the region.
On June 7, 2015, he traveled to Germany to attend the G-7 summit and returned on June 9. He proceeded to South Africa on June 13, 2015, for the African Union Summit in continuation of talks on anti-terrorism fight and returned on June 16.
On July 19, 2015, the President embarked on a four-day official visit to the United States and after he returned on July 23, he proceeded to Cameroon for a two-day visit on July 29 and returned on July 30.
He went for the Republic of Benin’s Independence Day celebration from August 2 to August 3, 2015.
In September 2015, Buhari embarked on a one-day visit to Ghana on the 7th and a three-day official visit to France on the 14th, returning on the 16th of September.
The President traveled to New York for the 70th United Nations General Assembly on September 24, 2015, and returned on September 29.
From October 26 to 30, 2015, he traveled to New Delhi in India for the Indian-African Forum and on his way back, he made a technical stopover at Khartoum, Sudan.
From November 22 to 24, 2015, the President traveled to Tehran, Iran for the third Gas Exporting Countries’ Forum.
From November 26 to 30, 2015, the President was in Malta to participate in the 2015 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
From Malta, he traveled to France on November 30, 2015, for the UN Climate Change Summit and returned on December 1.
On December 3, 2015, he departed for South Africa to attend the China/Africa Summit. He returned on December 5.
On December 10, 2015, Buhari attended the last rites for the late former President Mathieu Kerekou of the Republic of Benin.
Travels in 2016
Buhari’s first foreign trip in 2016 was to the Benin Republic on January 8 where he attended the 11th Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Niger Basin Authority.
From January 17 to 20, 2016, he attended the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
From January 27 to 29, 2016, the President was in Kenya on an official visit. From Kenya, he headed to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for an African Union meeting and returned to Nigeria on January 30.
From February 2 to 4, 2016, the President visited France to attend the Special Session of the European Union Parliament.
From February 5 to 10, 2016, barely eight months into his tenure, he traveled to the UK for his first vacation.
On February 18, 2016, he departed for Egypt to attend the Sharm el-Sheikh ‘Africa 2016’ Business Forum and returned to Abuja the following day.
From February 22 to 29, 2016, the President visited Saudi Arabia and Qatar. He met with government officials and also visited Medina and Grand Mosque in Mecca, where he performed prayers for the peace and unity of Nigeria.
On March 14, 2016, Buhari visited Equatorial Guinea for two days and had discussions on agreement on Joint Maritime Policing.
From March 29 to April 3, 2016, he was in Washington DC attending a Nuclear Security Summit. He returned to Abuja on April 4.
He was in China from April 10 to 14, 2016 on a state visit.
On May 10, the President departed for the Anti-Corruption Summit in the UK. He returned to Abuja on May 14 but left for the UK on June 6 for his first medical vacation, following reports that he had an ear infection. He returned on June 19.
On August 8, 2016, Buhari traveled to Chad for the inauguration of President Idris Deby and from August 27 to 28, 2016, he visited Kenya to attend the Tokyo Conference on Africa.
On September 18, 2016, the President traveled to New York, US where he spent five days to attend the 71st UN General Assembly.
The President visited Germany on October 13, 2016, and departed on October 16.
He spent five days from November 14 to 18, 2016 in Morocco where he attended the UN Climate Change Conference.
On November 23, 2016, he traveled to Equatorial Guinea for the 4th Africa/Arab summit.
From December 5 to 7, 2016, Buhari was in Senegal where he attended the Dakar International Forum on Peace and Security in Africa.
On December 13, 2016, he attended the ECOWAS summit in The Gambia.
Trips in 2017
The President’s first foreign trip in 2017 was to Ghana where he attended the inauguration of President Nana Akufo-Addo on January 7.
On January 13, he traveled to The Gambia to attend a high-level ECOWAS meeting. He was in Mali the following day for the 27th African France Summit.
On January 19, 2017, the President traveled to the UK on medical leave and returned on March 10 after spending 51 days in the UK.
Barely 40 days after, Buhari traveled again to the UK for medical attention on May 8, 2017, and remained there till August 19, 2017, spending 104 days, a record which surpassed that of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua.
On September 17, 2017, he left for the US to attend the 72nd UN General Assembly where he stayed till September 21.
He traveled from the US to the UK for medical purposes and returned to Abuja on September 25, 2017.
On October 18, 2017, he traveled along with members of his family to Turkey on a working visit and returned on October 22.
From November 28 to 30, 2017, the President was in Côte d’Ivoire where he attended the EU-AU Summit. And from December 1 to 4, 2017, he was in Jordan where he attended a counter-terrorism summit.
Journeys in 2018
His first foreign trip in 2018 was to Ethiopia from January 28 to 30 for the African Union summit.
Buhari was in the UK for 13 days from April 9 to 21, 2018 for his annual leave.
From April 28 to May 4, 2018, Buhari journeyed to the US where he met with President Donald Trump at the White House where they discussed security and trade.
Buhari spent seven days away from home and went to the UK for a few hours for what his handlers termed a “technical stopover.”
Four days after returning to Nigeria, however, Buhari returned to the UK for medical reasons on May 8, 2018, and he returned on May 11.
From June 10 to 11, 2018, the President was in Morocco where three agreements between Nigeria and the Moroccan government were signed.
From June 30 to July 3, 2018, Buhari visited Mauritania for the ordinary session of the AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government.
On July 15, Buhari traveled to The Netherlands for the 20th anniversary of the International Criminal Court. He returned on July 18.
President Buhari traveled to Togo on July 29, 2018, where he participated in the Joint ECOWAS-ECCAS Heads of State and Government Summit on Peace, Security, Stability and Fight against Terrorism and Violent Extremism.
The President again traveled to London on a working leave on August 3, 2018, and returned on the 18th, spending a total of 16 days.
President handlers said during interviews that “he may just see his doctors briefly during the visit.”
On August 31, 2018, the President traveled to China to attend a summit on China-Africa Cooperation and returned after eight days on September 7, 2018.
From September 23 to 29, 2018, he was out of the country, this time to the United States to attend the UN General Assembly.
He traveled to France for a peace forum on November 10 where he spent six days. From November 29 to December 1, 2018, Buhari attended a regional summit in Chad.
The President traveled to Poland on a working visit on December 1, 2018, and returned on December 5.
On Christmas Day, he visited the Niger Republic to attend the country’s 60th proclamation anniversary.
Break from foreign trips for elections
The President took a break from foreign trips for three months as he toured the 36 states for the 2019 General Elections.
But after the elections had come and gone, he traveled on April 2, 2019, where he attended the inauguration of Senegalese President, Macky Sall.
From April 4 to 7, 2019, he attended the World Economic Forum in Jordan after which he visited the United Arab Emirates from April 7 to 10 for an investment meeting. Again, he traveled to Chad on April 13, 2019, for a one-day official visit.
Write more editorials –Presidency
When asked to react to the report on the President’s foreign trips, the Presidency asked Punch editors to write more editorials on Buhari’s foreign trips.
“Go and tell your editors to write editorials on it (foreign trips). Your editors should write editorials; let them write”, Presidential spokesperson, Mr. Garba Shehu, stated in response to an enquiry by Saturday PUNCH.
Buhari’s trips, waste of taxpayers’ money –PDP, CUPP
The Peoples Democratic Party and the Coalition of United Political Parties have described Buhari’s foreign travels as a waste of taxpayers’ money.
The PDP Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Diran Odeyemi, and the coalition’s national spokesman, Imo Ugochinyere, said this in separate interviews with our correspondents on Friday.
Ugochinyere asked the President to stay back in the country and tackle Nigeria’s challenges, especially the spate of insecurity across the country.
He said, “The President has spent over one year out of the period he was elected to govern the country outside Nigeria.
“After the travels to different parts of the world, the poverty level is still rising and killings have now become more rampant in Nigeria.”
Odeyemi, in his remarks, said, “A review of several foreign trips of President Buhari indicated a complete waste of the country’s resources as against his promise to block unwarranted foreign expenditures.
“He broke his promise to equip hospitals in Nigeria towards putting a stop to foreign trips for medical reasons by spending hundreds of days in London hospital, receiving treatment. Has our hospital been equipped up till now? NO.”
We’re proud to see him travel, attract investments, says APC
But the ruling All Progressives Congress said on Friday that the President’s foreign trips had been beneficial to the country.
The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Lanre Issa-Onilu, said the party was proud to see Buhari go out to attract investments.
He said, “Absolutely, the President’s travels have been beneficial. Beyond the issue that was beyond him which was the issue of health and we thank God, he has overcome that, we believe that more than any President before him, all his trips have been targeted at things that are crucial to the development of this country.
“We do not think it is about the number of days he had traveled but about the purpose of his travels and the benefits the country is deriving from the trips. I think the President should be commended for not embarking on frivolous trips.”
Buhari should prioritise fixing the economy, constituting cabinet –SERAP, CACOL
Two civil society organizations, the Socio-Economic Right and Accountability Project and the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership on Friday asked Buhari to focus early on fixing the economy for the betterment of Nigerians.
The SERAP Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, said, “Setting the agenda for the President, I want to remind him that the welfare and happiness of the majority of Nigerians is the primary responsibility of the government. The economy is key and the government must do all within its powers to give this a top priority.”
Also, the CACOL Director, Mr. Debo Adeniran, noted that President Buhari must hit the ground running, as there were no excuses for any lapses in his second tenure.
He said, “Despite the medical trips, what should not be lacking in the President is the art of governance. The government has to run efficiently even when the President is not in the country if he has set principles and systems on the ground.”
Buhari’s trips have not benefitted Nigeria –SMBLF
Meanwhile, the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum has flayed the President’s frequent foreign trips, stating that the nation is yet to benefit from them.
The SMBLF spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, advised the President to stay at home and address the challenges facing the country, adding that Nigeria had declined in all indices of development and growth.
Odumakin cited the growing insecurity, noting that bandits were having free rein in various parts of the country, including in Katsina, the President’s home state.
He stated, “Buhari’s foreign trips have mostly been jamborees. Look at the indices: Between 2014 and now, Nigeria has become worse off. We have declined in foreign direct investment.
“From the report by Bloomberg, we were five in 2014, now we have dropped to two. The unemployment rate was six percent in 2014, today it is 23 percent; Inflation rate was eight in 2014, today it is 11.
“Debt to the GDP was 12 in 2014, today, it is 25; Our debt portfolio was 12 percent, but today, it is 24.6 percent. So what benefits have these trips accrued to us? We do not know.”
President’s long stay abroad unhealthy –Junaid Mohammed
A Second Republic lawmaker, Dr. Juniad Mohammed, has said it is unhealthy for a President to stay away from his country for the equivalent of 25 percent of his term.
He said, “The President staying more than 300 days out of the country cannot be good news for any nation in dire need of development; there are sufficient issues in the country to keep the president on his seat.’’
On his part, elder statesman and Presidential Liaison Officer during the Second Republic, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, said he had no quarrel with the President traveling to attend to his health because it was a necessity.
He, however, said, “If somebody can rule a country for almost four years promising change and the only change is for the worse, I wonder what will follow. We still don’t have a budget for 2019 and the first quarter is almost gone. Now, they are promising Next Level, I wonder what can be achieved within the next three years since the final year is an election year.”