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Nigeria bans government-funded travel abroad for officials

The temporary measure will help save money as Africa’s most populous nation grapples with an economic downturn

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu has suspended all publicly-funded international travel for government officials as part of efforts to scale down administrative spending amid an escalating cost of living crisis.

The measure goes into effect on April 1 and will last three months, Femi Gbajabiamila, chief of staff at the Presidency, said in a circular published by local media on Thursday.

According to the statement, the decision is prompted by President Tinubu’s “concerns about the rising cost of travel expenses” as well as the “growing needs for cabinet members and heads of MDAs [Ministries, Departments and Agencies] to focus in their respective mandates for effective service delivery.”

Tinubu and his officials have faced widespread criticism for taking frequent trips abroad, including sending over 400 people to the COP28 climate conference in Dubai last November. There has also been uproar over the country’s accountant general department recently organizing a training program in the UK for finance commissioners from all of Nigeria’s 36 states and other government officials.

Tinubu is said to have traveled abroad more than 15 times since his inauguration last May. Local daily The Punch reported earlier this year that the president had spent at least 3.4 billion naira ($2.2 million) on domestic and international travel in the first six months of his administration. This was 36% more than the amount budgeted for 2023, according to the outlet, which cited GovSpend, a civic tech platform that tracks government spending.

In the March 12 order, chief of staff Femi Gbajabiamila said the temporary travel ban will help cut costs amid “current economic challenges” without “compromising governance functions.”

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Government officials will now have to seek approval from the president at least two weeks in advance if there is a need for them to embark on international trips that are “deemed absolutely necessary” when the ban goes into effect next month.

Living and transportation costs in Africa’s most populous country have risen since President Tinubu removed a fuel subsidy as part of budget deficit-reduction reforms. The devaluation of the local currency – the naira – has increased the cost of goods, sparking street protests and nationwide strikes led by labor unions across the country, which is also plagued by terrorism.

March 22, 2024 at 03:42PM

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