Thursday, 11 September 2014

Reuben Abati Lied: President Jonathan Did Lead 600-Man Delegation To 2013 UN General Assembly, Foreign Minister Confesses

 Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Bashir Wali, has confirmed that President Goodluck Jonathan did lead a massive 600-man delegation to the United Nations General Assembly last year, as reported at that time by SaharaReporters
It was the world’s largest, he also confirmed.  He described the size of Nigeria’s delegations to the General Assembly every year as “embarrassing.”

Mr. Wali, a former Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations, made the startling disclosures yesterday in Abuja while addressing heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). In the Minister’s words, 80% of the people in the delegation have no business being on them, and do not add any value.

SaharaReporters broke the story on September 22, 2013, disclosing that the delegation included an inner circle of about 26 people.  It was bloated by about 547 civil servants drawn from the MDAs, who overran some of New York City’s priciest hotels.

Our story was immediately denounced by presidential spokesman Reuben Abati as lacking “substance,” and “a continuation today by of its usual scurrilous and baseless attacks” on Mr. Jonathan’s administration.

“There is no substance to the rehashed charge of profligacy which Sahara reporters annually make against the President when he leads Nigeria’s delegation to the UN General Assembly,” he said in a statement, asserting that the delegation was “less than 30” persons.

President goodluck Jonathan addressing the UN last year State House Photo

Shoving Abati’s very words back at him, Ambassador Wali’s remarks not only vindicated our report, it put it in perspective.

“The size of Nigeria’s delegation to the United Nations General Assembly last year was 567; that is something that is certainly way, way out; certainly it is unacceptable. On that basis I asked that they send me the list of three countries: Germany, South Africa and Egypt, to compare with what we in Nigeria have. None of them is up to one third of our own delegation,” the Minister said.

He regretted that not even China with a population of over one billion people can compare with the number of delegates that Nigeria sends to the event annually, confirming that Nigeria did have the largest of all the delegations to New York in 2013.

What is worse, the ambassador observed that 80 per cent of Nigeria’s vast delegations to the General Assembly do not add any value to the team’s work at the assembly.

“So, you can see that there is certainly need to really take a second look and see that those of our delegates that go the UN General Assembly do have value. It is not a question of having a jamboree, but indeed, it is more like a jamboree.

“I happen to have observed for four years as Nigeria’s ambassador to the UN, the delegation of Nigeria to the UN General Assembly. So, I know and if we are going to be honest to ourselves, I know that 80 per cent of the delegates that go from Nigeria do not add value to our team to the UN.”

Mr. Wali assured that his ministry was working to ensure that the country has value for money, stressing that there ought to be some measure of accountability and responsibility on the part of Nigeria’s delegates.

He is now awaiting the approval of President Jonathan to place a ceiling on the number of delegates that will be in New York this year, he said, declaring that Nigeria can “certainly” not afford a 567-man delegation.

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