WHEN Ahmed Abba Umar was unexpectedly given the chance to attend COP26, he was so determined to attend he arrived in Glasgow without having a place to stay – or even a warm jacket.

Now, the activist from a poverty-stricken area of northern Nigeria has praised the hospitality and generosity shown to him during his time in Scotland, ahead of returning home this week.

He is one of hundreds who were helped by Glaswegians opening the door to their own homes to activists during the world summit as prices of accommodation rocketed.

A recent report by the COP26 Homestay Network found 1260 residents offered a place to stay during the summit – with half for free and the rest with an average price of £4.50 per night.

Umar set up his own organisation Association for Progressive African Youth (AJAP) Nigeria to provide support to children in his community in Kano State, after losing his own parents at a young age.

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He takes on labouring work to raise money to help them attend school, buying essentials such as exercise books, pens and pencils and providing breakfasts.

“With the little that we have, we need to do something that will impact the lives of our people that are left behind in so many things,” he said.

“The level of poverty is too much, the level of illiteracy and lack of education is too much.

“Education is the most important thing in fighting against climate change and climate crisis.”


Umar’s determination to improve the lives of those around him attracted attention on social media and he was contacted with the offer of help to organise a visa and flights to travel to COP26.

The 28-year-old decided he had to take the opportunity to go, despite having little funds to support his trip.

When he arrived in the evening in Glasgow, initial efforts to find a bed for the night with the help of someone he met at the airport were unsuccessful.

Umar managed to find an address in the city centre which the COP26 Coalition was using as a base. When he checked where it was, he realised it was two hours walk away – but set out on the journey nevertheless.


“I kept going though it was raining and very cold. I reached there around 6am and the place was locked,” he said.

“I started shivering because of the cold and stress and confusion.

“Someone saw my condition and I explained my situation to him and he gave me a coat and access to internet to see if anyone could help with accommodation.

“Later I got a message saying yes we have accommodation for you – and that is the place I stayed.”

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At COP26, he said he spoke about the experiences of his community in the official Blue Zone of the event.

He said: “We are having a climate change crisis due to weather patterns – we are so close to the Sahara, from my town to Niger Republic is just one hour by road. Niger is a desert area so there is issues around that.

“But in reality our people they don’t know anything about climate change. When a person wakes up in the morning and he doesn’t even have anything to eat for him and his family, all of his thinking and focus is on how to survive.

“Women and girls are the most affected by climate crisis because many have to go to a very far place to fetch water.

“So in the process of going to fetch water they sometimes becomes victim of kidnap.

“If the kidnappers kidnap you and they request money, if you don’t have that money they just kill you. That is how the situation is.”


With the help of the family who offered him a place to stay, he decided to stay on after COP26 to improve his communication skills. He has been volunteering for Oxfam’s book and music shops in Glasgow, but will return home this week to continue his work in his own community, with a crowdfunder launched for AJAP Nigeria on GoFundMe.

Umar's hopes for the future include securing sponsorship for a scholarship which will allow him to build on his knowledge and education and expand his work.

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He added: “Since I came into this world I find myself with serious challenges, from one problem to another. But when I came here, I received kindness and hospitality which I never expected.

“I don’t know what the future will be but I try my best to make sure that before I leave this world, I bring some changes to my community.

“I will never forget Scotland, I will never forget the people of Scotland and I feel Scotland is my home.”

Andrew McWhinnie, manager of Oxfam Music Shop in Glasgow, said: “Like all of our volunteers, Ahmed does wonderful work. I like to think we always make people welcome – it is good the whole of Glasgow did and a reason to be proud of the city.”