Nigerians on Tuesday hailed President Bola Tinubu for slashing his entourage size for domestic and international travels by 60 per cent, in a decisive step to cut excessive travel spending.
The austerity measures apply to all federal ministries, departments and agencies, the Office of the President, Office of the Vice President and the wives of the President and the Vice President.
The President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, disclosed this to State House Correspondents at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja on Tuesday.
Ngelale said, “President Bola Tinubu has approved that anywhere he travels within this country, he will no longer accept or allow huge security delegations to be following him from Abuja, which attract massive bills with respect to estacode and duty allowances.
“He has approved a massive cost-cutting exercise that will cut across the entire Federal Government of Nigeria and the offices of the President himself, the Vice President and the Office of the First Lady. It will be conducted in the following fashion.
“On international trips, the President has directed that no more than 20 individuals be allowed to travel with him. That number will be cut down to five in the case of the First Lady. Additionally, the number in the entourage on official international trips for the Vice President will be cut to five. The number that will be placed as a limit on the wife of the Vice President is also five.”
This decision comes five weeks after Nigerians criticised the Tinubu administration for sponsoring at least 1,114 delegates to the United Nation’s annual climate summit, COP28, in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates.
Although the Presidency said it sponsored only 422 delegates, reports say it spent N2.78bn on air fares and estacodes.
Many Nigerians commended Tinubu’s Tuesday decision.
Taking to X, @odonoh said governors should emulate the president by cutting down the size of their entourage when they travel to reduce recurrent expenditure. “President Tinubu, a leader by example,” the user added.
@VivaDido said, “This is commendable but asked, “Wait, where would the saved money go to in the budget?”
@PatoEner said “what happened at COP28” needed not to happen again. “This is a good one, thinking in line for a better funds management. What happened at the COP28 need not repeat itself again,” the user said.
“Excellent move. I wonder what those defending the large entourage will defend now,” @St_Vin wrote.
@SodiqTade said if anyone believed Tinubu would reduce his entourage to 20 officials, “then you are not a serious person. This is like the annual withdrawal of police officers from the VIPs.” The user however said, “I commend him for even trying to put it on paper.”
“That’s a good development,” @ShuaibAzee16839 simply said, just as @ShuaibAzee16839 said, “Thanks Mr President.”
“Honestly, that is what we want to hear from the president. This country needs a government that can play hard morality, hard legality and hard economics. No soft anything to play in this tough time. We thank God we have gotten a servant who is ready to do our priorities.”
In their first seven months in office, President Tinubu and Vice Kashim Shettima visited 16 countries, collectively spent 91 days in foreign engagements, The PUNCH observed.
Checks revealed that President Tinubu has so far visited Paris, France (twice); London, the United Kingdom; Bissau, Guinea-Bissau (twice); Nairobi, Kenya; Porto Norvo, Benin Republic; New Delhi, India; Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the United Arab Emirates; New York, the United States of America, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and Berlin, German, spending 55 days.
Meanwhile, VP Shettima represented him in Italy, Russia, South Africa, Cuba, China and the US, logging 36 days abroad in 2023. While the Presidency defended these trips as vital for attracting foreign direct investment into Nigeria, critics question the economic impact, particularly the size of the entourage.
But the President’s spokesperson told journalists that Tinubu was “determined to bring total sanity and prudence to the management of the Commonwealth of our people.”
“Henceforth, the President is insistent that the notion of government wastage and the notion that government officials will be allowed to conduct their affairs in a way that is different from what we are asking of Nigerian citizens with respect to prudence and Cost Management, those days are over.
“The President is insistent that the prudence of government officials must reflect the prudence of the Nigerian citizens,” he added.
Revealing more details about the directive, Ngelale said, “The President has approved a new limit of 25 staff members to accompany him on domestic trips.
“The Office of the First Lady is now limited to 10 staff members to accompany her on official trips within the country.
“The Vice President will be limited to 15 members of staff on official trips within the country, while his wife will be limited to 10 members of staff on officials within the country.”
Given that the President travels with an army of security personnel across states, Ngelale said henceforth, “the security outfits within states, be it police, the DSS or branches of the military, will frontline his protective detail when he travels to those states.”
This also applies to the Office of the VP, the First Lady, and the VP’s wife.
He explained that the number of persons allowed to accompany each officer on international trips is less than those allowed on domestic trips because “international trips are far more expensive across the board.”
For the MDAs, Ngelale said ministers are now limited to four persons for foreign trips, while agency heads can only travel with two persons.
“By this directive, every minister will be limited to having not more than four staff members going with them to any event anywhere in the world. In the case of CEOs of agencies, they will be limited to two staff going with them to anywhere in the world,” he explained.
Asked what sanctions await those who defy this directive, the Presidential aide replied, “I believe we do not need to convince the officers of the Federal Government of Nigeria of the seriousness of the President with respect to how he will implement his directives.
“If there is anybody who feels that the directive of the President is not binding on them, who feels that the President will not uphold this directive in implementation and seeks to test it, they will do so at their peril.”