The Cable News
As is the norm with the United Nations Climate Change Conference, otherwise known as the Conference of Parties (COP), two days after the opening day is reserved for high-level engagements.
At these engagements, Heads of State and Governments (HOS/G) are expected to deliver their national statements. These remarks usually contain ambitions, plans and commitments in the fight against climate change.
It was during one of such high-level events at COP26, which held in the UK in 2021, that former President Muhammadu Buhari said Nigeria would reach net-zero emissions target by 2060.
Buhari did not attend COP27 in Egypt and so Nigeria was not represented at the event proper. However, during the closing days of the conference, when the high-level events resumed (this time for ministers), Mohammed Abdullahi, then minister of environment, delivered the national statement.
This year, the high-level segment for HOS/G was tagged the ‘World Climate Action Summit’ and was scheduled to hold on December 1 and 2, with over 80 world leaders billed to speak.
One of the scheduled speakers was President Bola Tinubu of Nigeria who was 36 on the list.
The first day of the conference came to an end without the Nigerian leader delivering a speech. He also did not deliver any remarks on the second day.
President Tinubu at the plenary one flanked on the right by Wale Edun, minister of finance
TheCable was at the event on both days and observed that the president was in the plenary room — on the day he was slated to speak — when other leaders were delivering their national statements.
Tinubu was slated to speak on the first day after Nikos Christodoulides, President of Cyprus, delivered his speech.
However, at about 4:10 pm, an insider told TheCable that Tinubu left the plenary room for the presidential lounge for a scheduled meeting with another president.
The source later told TheCable that the meeting never took place so the president left for his hotel room and returned at night to sign an agreement with Olaf Scholz, Chancellor of Germany, aimed at expanding Nigeria’s grid capacity and boosting electricity supply in the country.
In a twist of events and in order to show that Nigeria was still represented at the plenary, Balarabe Lawal, minister of environment, went ahead to sit on the president’s chair.
Lawal was expected to speak on the president’s behalf.
However, after Christodoulides delivered his speech, Nigeria was skipped and the next leader was called to the rostrum.
The organisers told TheCable that the president’s speech can only be read by a representative on Day 9 of the session.
According to the United Nations, “The World Climate Action Summit (WCAS) from Friday, 1 December to Saturday, 2 December 2023, will hear national statements from Heads of State and Governments (HOS/G) and Vice Presidents who have registered and confirmed their wish to deliver a statement. Parties will have only one opportunity to deliver a national statement during the high-level segment”.
“All speakers should ensure that they are in the plenary room at least five speakers ahead of the delivery of their national statement,” the notice reads.
In an interview with Premium Times, Yusuf Tuggar, minister of foreign affairs, said the reason the president did not deliver a speech was because Nigeria wanted more action and less talk.
However, TheCable can report that this was not the case because all parties who did not wish to speak did not sign up to the UN’s list of speakers.
An example is US President Joe Biden who had registered his non-attendance because he was focusing on the Israel-Hamas crisis and so was not named on the list of speakers.
TheCable reached out to Ajuri Ngelale, the president’s spokesperson, for comments. However, none had come at the time this story was published.