Why Nigeria’s Foreign Missions Stink

With 110 missions in various countries of the world, Nigeria is well represented to have a foothold in world affairs and cater to the interests of its citizens who are also found almost everywhere.

There is no gain saying that, some Nigerian Foreign Missions have been in the limelight for both the good and bad reasons.

This reflects the nation’s struggle to maintain a positive image outside and the need to put its foreign missions in order both in operations and structures.

However, a recent report by the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs laid bare the multifaceted problem facing Nigerian Foreign Missions in almost all parts of the world.

The report presented by the Chairman, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Yusuf Buba gave detailed observations after the committee visited the Nigerian Consulate in Atlanta, Georgia in United States of America (USA) and Kingston, Jamaica.

Summing up its observations, the committee stated thus: “With the benefit of discoveries and knowledge garnered by members of the House delegation for the oversight visits under review, it is the opinion of the delegation that what we have seen in Atlanta, Georgia in USA and Kingston, Jamaica, are a fair representation of what actually obtains in almost all Nigeria Foreign Missions across the globe”.

The committee revealed in the report that, its delegation has discovered that over 70% of Nigeria’s Foreign Missions across the world have for several years received zero allocation in their capital budget year in year out.The report stated: “As a result of the above, this reality has led to infrastructural and other decay in each of the missions.

“The above has caused a situation where Foreign Service Officers prefer to rent houses than staying in the missions owned properties due to their dilapidated state.“Considering the problem posed by the above, funding is needed to put the issue of renovation and sundry works at almost all missions abroad to rest.”

The committee further disclosed that Foreign Missions are allegedly overshooting the ceiling on Presidential approval of smart missions.

It could be recalled the report stated, that President Muhammadu Buhari had as part of reforms of the Foreign Missions operations, sometimes in 2020 approved the operation of smart missions in over 75 Nigerian missions across the world, to reduce funding costs.

The committee disclosed that, in the course of its investigation, it has discovered cases of indiscriminate postings above the approved ceiling of the President for Foreign Service Officers.It added: “This has led to overstaffing and wastage of resources that ought to have been used for the maintenance of other staff, the mission buildings and general infrastructure.”

The delegation advises that the reforms of Mr President in this regard be implemented or enforced.“The delegation also discovered that the shortage in the number of passports required by Nigerians in the Diaspora has continued to be a major issue at our missions.“The reality on the ground indicates that the Nigerian Standard Passport and others are still being printed outside the shores of our country”.

Similarly, the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts has summoned the Minister of Interior, Ra’uf Aregbesola, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry and the Acting Comptroller General (CG), Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) to appear on Wednesday, December 22 over alleged loss of revenue through passport production and issues outsourced to foreign consultants.

Chairman of the Committee, Wole Oke lamented that the outsourcing of visa and passport production and handling was causing a lot of revenue losses to the country and should be stopped. He said the practice should be stopped since there were adequate personnel trained for the purpose and ways should be found to produce passports locally.

He said: “We visited your embassies and the Auditor General raised some queries on some missions so we visited South Africa and Atlanta, US.“We discovered that Nigeria is losing serious money through your operations. You engaged consultants to manage your passports and visas platform.“In our opinion, NIS personnel were trained to manage visa and passport matters. That is your core mandate.

So on what basis are you now engaging consultants?“So what are you people doing in the offices? So your men are idle, roaming the streets, this is not acceptable to the parliament, something has to be done to stop the economic wastage“I give you a scenario, In South Africa, out of a revenue of $213, a consultant took $90. Out of that $213, only $15 came to the Nigerian purse.“That particular consultant is managing 14 countries.

And Nigeria is bleeding through this window and we would continue to borrow money to finance our budget and one person sitting down in the corner of his room is making $90 on each applicant. It would not continue.

“The Minister of Interior, the Permanent Secretary, the CG of the Service are to cause an appearance before this committee to speak on this issue.“You have a letter from this committee asking you to furnish this committee with the particulars of all the consultants you have engaged and the agreement you signed with them. Nigeria is bleeding through this window”.

The Committee on Foreign Affairs in its consideration contained in the report believes that the problems associated with shortages in the required number of passports for Nigerians abroad can adequately be mitigated by the termination of existing contracts for printing abroad while commencing production l

locally.

Lack of synergy and rivalry among sister agencies at the Foreign Missions has also been identified as a major problem militating against the operations of the missions.

According to the report, the committee’s delegation had observed that a typical composition of staff in Nigerian missions abroad consists of officers from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Nigerian Immigration Service; the National Intelligence Agency; The Nigerian Military and Accountants from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation.

It stated that: “The delegation, in the course of its assignment, discovered very serious and unhealthy rivalry among officers of these bodies/organisations, who are serving at each of the Embassies/High Commissions abroad.

“Although roles are seemingly defined, as per the nature of services offered citizens of Nigeria on other lands, the clashes that sometimes occur appear likely to cause more serious problems than already seen

”.

The report cited a case where the military attaché left an embassy building to rent office space elsewhere and Immigration officers started to issue visas without the vetting of the Mission’s Consular Officer (usually, NIA Officers).

The report stated that the observed anomalies can be addressed by a clear definition of roles and the establishment of boundaries or precincts of duty for officers at post no matter the agency or department they come from.

The report added: “The head of the Mission is the Ambassador/High Commissioner or Consular General who all the officers in the Mission must report to”.

As part of its major findings, the committee was in Jamaica as stated in the report, over the stoppage of a school building project being executed by the mission and recommended the continuation of the project as well as the renovation of the Chancery and residence by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

It purposely visited Jamaica as a result of pressure being mounted by the international community on the Nigeria Mission in Kingston and other Nigerian authorities.

The committee recommended that the Ministry of Aviation and other relevant bodies should work for the provision of a direct flight from Nigeria to Jamaica to service all Caribbean countries which should be made part of the agenda of the Bi-national Commission meeting to be hosted by Nigeria.

It further recommended that government should provide funds for the building of a minimum of 8-10 terrace duplexes on the land measuring about one hectare with the Chancery building in Kingston, which is not currently utilised, forcing all Home-based officers to rent their houses at exorbitant costs to government.It further calls for, “Urgent provision of representational vehicles to the High Commissioner and a utility vehicle for the High Commission should be made as a matter of crying need.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs be enjoined to ensure it gives approval to the High Commissioner in Jamaica to utilise the funds available in the Missions coffers to carry out renovations on the Chancery and the residence, while action on the contractual infractions detected continues”.

The report by the House Committee has exposed the state of affairs in Nigerian Foreign Missions which has been on for years.It is not only out to inform about the situation, but it is a reminder of what had been reported at various times and a call for action to make things better and address the challenges.

But, to worsen the situation,

checks into the 2022 appropriation bill also revealed that 56 Foreign Missions have zero allocation in the capital budget.

The implications of this is that, for some of these missions, their problems are far from being over in the nearest future.

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