Citizens Lament Nigeria’s Third Largest Delegation At COP28 Amidst Austerity
Nigerians at COP28 attending side events at the Nigerian Pavilion.

…Out of the total 1,411 Nigerian delegates, 821 have the “Overflow” badges, while 590 were approved to carry the “Party” badge

Nigeria’s large delegation to the ongoing climate change conference in Dubai has continued to elicit condemnation from citizens who had been asked by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to endure the rise in the price of goods and services caused by government policies.

Many Nigerians, on Saturday and Sunday, took to social media, particularly X (formerly Twitter) to vent their outrage after the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) published a provisional list of accredited delegates at the ongoing 28th meeting of the UN Conference of Parties (COP28) in Dubai.

According to the published list, Nigeria and China have 1,411 delegates each with badges accredited to attend this year‘s summit in Dubai.

A review of the published list ranked Nigeria joint third behind the UAE and Brazil among all the countries present at COP28.

Out of the total 1,411 Nigerian delegates, 821 have the “Overflow” badges, while 590 were approved to carry the “Party” badge.

Party badges are worn by negotiators and delegations of Countries (Parties) and the European Union that have ratified the convention and are fully part of the negotiation procedures. The Overflow badges are for other delegates such as civil society activists, media, and business persons.

A review of Nigeria’s Party delegates shows that it contains the names of current and former ministers, special advisers, heads of MDAs, and presidential aides such as luggage officers and chefs, among others.

Ideally, delegates with the Party badge should be negotiators representing their countries in the different negotiation rooms and who report back to the UNFCCC country focal point person.

In Nigeria’s case, however, many of the Party delegates are believed to have no understanding of COP negotiation procedures or the complex climate negotiation processes.2

“All those with Nigeria’s party badge are supposed to be following the negotiation text as it’s going on and report back. But unfortunately, most of them don’t know how this works,” a top official of Nigeria’s environment ministry who does not want his name in print as he was not authorised to talk to journalists, told PREMIUM TIMES in Dubai.

Party badges of Other countries

While Nigeria ranked joint-third in the total number of delegates accredited for the conference, checks by PREMIUM TIMES show that Nigeria and Russia ranked joint-fourth among countries with the highest “Party” badge delegation at COP.

Nigeria’s 590 ‘Party’ delegates are lower than that of Brazil (1,337), India (725), and UAE (620).

President Bola Tinubu exchanging pleasantries with some Nigerian delegates
President Bola Tinubu exchanged pleasantries with some Nigerian delegates

Morocco accredited 581 delegates with Party badges to clinch the fourth spot while Pakistan, with a similar population as Nigeria, has just 80 Party delegates.

Individuals at COP with a Party badge have a wide range of access to meeting rooms at the COP venue, while participants with “Overflow” badges are often restricted. This may explain why Nigerian presidential aides with no climate change/environmental background or climate negotiation experience were given the Party badge.

Who sponsored Nigeria’s delegation?

While it may seem that all the delegates with the ‘Party’ badge are government-sponsored, it may not be so, experts have said.

In an interview with PREMIUM TIMES in Dubai, Nnimmo Bassey, director of the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), who has over a decade of experience in COP negotiations, said “Party badges” are issued to the main negotiators and delegates, while “Party overflow” badges are issued to the “extra crowd.”

Nnimmo Bassey
Nnimmo Bassey

“It is not easy to say whether they are all funded by the government.”

He added that it is “not likely that the federal government would fund “Party Overflow” delegates. But it is conceivable state governments or government agencies could do that.”

He described Nigeria’s large delegation at COP as a “very fluid situation.”

He questioned why many Nigerian agencies at COP had a large delegation when they could have had meetings in Nigeria to agree on a common agenda.

“The plurality of attendance is an indication of lack of cohesion in both the overall governance structure and on the particular agendas brought to the COP,” he noted.

Mr Bassey said there is a big risk of having agencies come to the COP to shop for minuscule individual project support which may weaken the hand of the core national negotiators.

“It should also be kept in mind that Nigeria’s position would normally generally align with that of the African negotiating block and this demands careful engagement to build the global positions and avoid disparate and narrow needs of individual agencies,” he said.

The Nigerian government has, so far, refused to disclose the exact number of government-funded delegates at the conference as well as the cost implication. A presidential aide who defended a large number of delegates in a Sunday morning statement also refused the disclose those details.

However, some experts at COP say it is unlikely that the Nigerian government would have funded all 590 Party delegates.

“Countries fund their delegates, but it’s also common in global South countries to source funds from donor partners to fund such trips as well,” Francisco Parra, director of Climate Tracker Latin America, told PREMIUM TIMES.

Overflow Delegates

A review of Nigeria’s Overflow badge list indicates that most of them are members of relevant NGOs and civil society groups working within the climate space.

The Director General of WTO, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala during a stop by at the Nigerian pavilion
The Director General of WTO, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala during a stop-by at the Nigerian pavilion

Also, not all the delegates accredited to attend the conference eventually do so. At the end of the conference, the registered number of attendees is expected to be published by the UNFCCC.

Nigerians react

About half of Nigeria’s 200 million plus population live below the poverty level; a fact that has been made worse by President Bola Tinubu’s policies such as the removal of subsidy on petrol and the floating of the naira exchange rate.

Mr Tinubu has repeatedly acknowledged that his policies have made the economic situation worse for many Nigerians but he has appealed for understanding from citizens arguing that such policies are crucial for long-term growth of the economy.

With many Nigerians grappling with the economic downturn, many could not understand why the government would choose to have such large delegation at COP28.

“Buhari’s daughter as a director. I’m seriously interested in the total figure of the delegate, I believe taking all Nigerians to this event would have been the best since they are all cr£zy,” an X user @cute_pecky wrote.

In another tweet, she said: “Taxpayers’ money yet wasted. Nigerians will move on as usual.”

Another X user in a tweet said: “Really annoying! What would have to happen for Nigerians to rise for once?”

Similarly, another user said: “Total madness. Working as a Traffic Marshal at the COP28. The way I saw Nigerians trooping in was astonishing.”

Some Officials Present

PREMIUM TIMES correspondents at COP28 – none of whom is government-sponsored – spotted some Nigerian ministers around the COP premises. Some of those spotted are Nigeria’s Aviation minister, Festus Keyamo, and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yusuf Tuggar.

The Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Ogun State governor Dapo Abiodun, and the immediate past governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, are also in Dubai for the conference.

L-R: Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Immediate past governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi and Mr Bassey
Left-Right: Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Immediate past governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi and Mr Bassey

Similarly, prominent business persons like Alhaji Aliko Dangote, BUA Group Chairman Abdul Samad Rabiu, and Mele Kyari, the managing director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation Limited among others, have been seen at COP28.

Presidency speaks

Reacting to the criticism, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity, Temitope Ajayi, in an article shared with PREMIUM TIMES on Sunday morning, explained that Nigeria’s 1,411 delegates are not all government-funded and include civil society actors, business persons and others who have different roles to play at the conference.

In the article titled ‘Nigeria at COP28: Separating the facts from fiction,’ Mr Ajayi said the Nigerian delegation includes “business leaders, environmentalists, climate activists and journalists.”

“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 NNPC and its subsidiaries, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, NIMASA, NDDC.”

Mr Ajayi did not, however, state the number of delegates that are government-funded and the amount it costs the government.


The Conference of the Parties, dubbed COP, is the supreme decision-making body of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

States (countries) that are parties to the convention send representatives to COP, where they review the implementation of the convention and any other legal instruments adopted at COP meetings, and they make decisions necessary to promote the effective implementation of the convention, including institutional and administrative arrangements.

According to the UNFCCC, over 70,000 delegates globally are expected to converge on the Dubai Expo City in the United Arab Emirates for the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) this year. Last year’s COP held in Egypt only registered about 36,000 participants.

This year, the summit, billed to run between 30 November and 12 December, is aimed at advancing the implementation of the Paris Agreement and ramping up action towards keeping global temperature well below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Following a year of unprecedented heat, flooding and drought, this year’s summit is expected to bring to the front burner some key contentious issues for parties working and seeking to find a common ground to reversing climate crises in their countries and the world.

The host country — the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – has the largest registered delegation pegged at 4,409 participants. Brazil is second with 3,081 delegates.

At the ongoing COP, Nigeria’s delegates have hinted that the country’s priority is to secure more finances from investors to achieve its Energy Transition Plan (ETP) and other relevant climate actions in the country.

The Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, also said Nigeria has a comparative advantage in attracting and harnessing potential investments into the country based on funds being pledged at the ongoing summit.

Nigeria expects to spend $1.9 trillion between 2022 and 2060 to meet the targets of the ETP across five sectors. At several meetings at the summit, PREMIUM TIMES observed that core Nigerian Party delegates are pushing to attract investment into the country.

This story was published with the support of Climate Tracker’s COP28 Climate Justice Reporting Fellowship


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