President Muhammadu Buhari has so far travelled out of the country 17 times since his inauguration as the President on May 29.
The PUNCH’s investigation revealed that since June, there was no month that Buhari did not travel out of the country on official engagements.
There were several times that the President was represented abroad by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
Buhari’s trips caused a row on the social media recently with some commentators holding the view that the President “visits” Nigeria and spent more time abroad.
The criticism was premised on the argument that an economy that had been negatively affected by the sharp drop in oil prices could not continue to fund numerous foreign trips by the President and his aides.
An analysis carried out by our correspondent showed that Buhari travelled out of the country four times in June; three times each in September and November; twice each in July and December; once each in August and October.
Shortly after his inauguration, Buhari, on June 3 and 4, travelled to Niger Republic and Chad for consultations on how to tackle terrorism in the country and the region.
On June 7, he travelled to Germany to attend the G-7 Summit and proceeded to South Africa on June 13 for the African Union Summit in continuation of talks on the anti-terrorism fight.
In July, the President embarked on a four-day official visit to the United States of America on the 19th and proceeded to Cameroon for a two-day visit on July 29.
The only foreign trip he made in August was a one-day visit to Benin Republic on August 1.
That visit was also for the continuation of talks on the Boko Haram insurgency.
In September, Buhari embarked on a one-day visit to Ghana on the 7th; a three-day official visit to France on the 14th and travelled to New York for the 70th United Nations General Assembly on September 24.
The only trip he made in October was when he travelled to New Delhi in India on October 27 for the Indian-African Forum.
On November 22, the President travelled to Tehran, Iran, for the third Gas Exporting Countries’ Forum. On November 26, he proceeded to Malta to participate in the 2015 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting while he travelled to Paris, France, on November 29 for the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference.
On December 3, Buhari went to South Africa to participate in the Forum on China/Africa Cooperation in Johannesburg while he travelled to the Republic of Benin on December 10 for the funeral rites of the late President Mathieu Kerekou.
In the wake of the criticisms that trailed the trips, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, in an opinion article, explained that Buhari’s foreign trips were not for enjoyment or jamboree.
He explained that Buhari had slashed the number of members of his delegations on the trips “to a tolerable or the bearable minimum.”
He claimed that the President went to the United Nations General Assembly in September with 32 officials in his delegation, including his cook, doctor and luggage officer while, according to him, former President Goodluck Jonathan went to the same meeting with 150 officials and family members in 2014.
He explained that wherever they were given government accommodation and feeding, members of Buhari’s entourage received reduced allowances, thereby saving the government some money.
Justifying the trips further, Shehu added, “In public diplomacy, experts say that it is better conducted through face-to-face interaction than through third parties. This is even more so at the level of heads of state.
“To do it by proxy is to miss the effect of fostering strong interpersonal relations between leaders by which nations benefit.”
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, also issued a statement justifying the foreign trips of the President.
Mohammed explained that such trips by Buhari, since assuming office, were critical to the implementation of his administration’s key policies of enhancing security, jump-starting the economy, creating jobs and fighting corruption.