Sunday, February 25, 2024

FG not funding all COP28 delegates, says Presidency

BY BLESSING MATTHEW

The Presidency on Sunday said only a handful of the 1,411 Nigerian delegates who registered to attend the COP28 Climate Summit in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, are sponsored by the Federal Government.

This was, as it said, a bulk of the contingents comprised private sector players such as business people, Civil Society Organisations and delegates from Nigeria’s oil-producing Niger Delta region.

It also argued that the delegates are at the Summit to promote their respective causes and not for a jamboree.

“It is important to state here that delegates from all countries, whether from government, private sector, media and civil society groups, attend COP summits and conferences as parties and the number of attendees are registered against their countries of origin. This does not mean they are sponsored or funded by the government,” a statement signed by President Bola Tinubu’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Temitope Ajayi, read.

The response follows social media uproar over the significant presence of Nigerian delegates at the ongoing United Nations Climate Conference (COP28) in Dubai.

While noting that the large contingent from Nigeria is not solely government-funded, Ajayi said, “It is important to state here that delegates from all countries whether from government, private sector, media and civil society groups attend COP summits and conferences as parties and the number of attendees are registered against their countries of origin.

“This does not mean that they are sponsored or funded by the government. It must also be said that the fact that people registered to attend a conference does not mean everyone who registered is physically present.

“As the biggest country in Africa, the biggest economy and one with a bigger stake in climate action as a country with a huge extractive economy, it is a no-brainer that delegates from Nigeria will be more than any other country in Africa.”

He pointed out that because of the significance of the climate conference, stakeholders from Nigeria beyond the government are also involved.

They include UBA Chairman, Tony Elumelu; Chairman of BUA group, Abdul Samad Rabiu and other billionaires “whose businesses are promoting sustainability and climate actions through their philanthropies.

“These businessmen and women and their staff who came with them to promote their own business interests are part of the 1,411 delegates from Nigeria. Their trip to Dubai is not funded by the Federal Government.

“United Nations Climate summit, by its very nature, commands attendance of big names from across the world – statesmen and women, politicians, lawmakers, corporate titans, journalists and activists, etc. who promote big global agenda. So, people attend the summit for many reasons,” the Presidency clarified.

Ajayi also explained that when the world comes together to take action to achieve a common goal and proffer collective solutions to a nagging global concern, there are parties involved from government, private sector, civil society, media and multilateral institutions.

He noted, “In Nigeria like so many other countries, interested parties comprising government officials from both the Federal and sub-national governments, business leaders, environmentalists, climate activists and journalists are present in Dubai.”

Also participating are agencies of government such as the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited and its subsidiaries, the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, the Niger Delta Development Commission and many youth organisations from Nigeria, he explained.

“The President of Ijaw Youth Council, Jonathan Lokpobiri, leads a pan-Ijaw delegation of more than 15 people who registered as parties from Nigeria.

“Among delegates from Nigeria are also over 20 journalists from various media houses.

“Their participation is very important. It is not for jamboree as it is being mischievously represented on social media,” he noted.

Defending Tinubu’s participation at the global summit, the aide said, “President Tinubu and other officials on the Federal Government delegation are in Dubai for serious business not jamboree.

“Our President has been very busy representing our country well. Since Thursday morning when he arrived Dubai, President Tinubu has spent not less than 18 hours daily in attending very important sessions, pushing our national agenda whilst holding bilateral and business meetings on the sidelines.”

The Presidency highlighted the logic behind Nigeria’s participation, stating, “Africa that is battling problems of poverty, security and struggling to provide education and healthcare to her people cannot be told to abandon its major source of income which is mostly from extractive industries without the West providing the funding and investment in alternative and clean energy sources.”

The Nigerian Government nominated at least 589 delegates to attend this year’s COP28 climate change summit in Dubai, the Unite Arab Emirates.

This made it the fourth country with the most nominated delegates after the host, UAE, Brazil and China, who nominated 4,409, 3,081 and 822 badges, respectively.

A list of 198 parties (197 countries and the European Union) published by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change showed that the participants include Ministers, Governors, heads and directors of agencies, presidential aides, officials of the National Council of Climate Change, the SDGs office and the members of the organised private sector.

Among those names are President Bola Tinubu, his Chief of Staff, Femi Gbajabiamila, Indian business magnate, Gilbert Chagoury, who was designated as ‘Confidant of Mr President’ and Special Adviser to the President on the SDGs, Mrs Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire.

Around 84,000 onsite and online participants have badges for this year’s Conference of the Parties from November 30 to December 12, 2023.

Closer observation of the document showed that these include 24,488 parties, 880 UN Secretariat observers, 886 UN specialized agency observers, 1,897 IGO observers, 14,338 NGO observers and 3,972 media participants, 28,338 overflows, 6,268 categorised as “other/staff” and 3,074 virtual attendees.

This is nearly double the 50,000 who travelled to Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt for COP27 in 2022.

It also dwarfs the 38,000 parry delegates who attended the COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland.

Badges were also issued to a particular category of participants called “host country guests,” who are receiving badges as guests of the Emirati Government.

Recipients of such badges include Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, former UK prime ministers Boris Johnson and Tony Blair, CEO and chairman of French energy company EDF Luc Rémont and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

However, the 84,101 mentioned in the document are delegates registered for the summit.

The UNFCCC says it will release the final figures based on participants who appeared onsite and collected a physical badge after the summit ends.

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