▪︎considers exit from some international organisations
Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Godfrey Onyeama, on Tuesday decried what he referred to as the embarrassing state of the country’s missions across the world due to paucity of funds.
Onyeama also hinted that Nigeria was considering exiting some international organisations for the same reason.
He said plans were afoot to cit down on the number of International Organisations to which Nigeria belongs.
Onyeama stated these when he appeared before the House of Representatives on Tuesday in Abuja to defend the ministry’s 2021 budget.
According to him, the ministry was faced with a challenge of meeting its contributions tto number of the international organisations.
“We are owing a lot, and in the Federal Executive Council (FEC), there is a process to rationalise and cut down on the International Organisations we belong to.
“This is because we are just owing monies left and right and it is not even good for the image of the country,” he said.
Onyeama decried the poor funding of the ministry and enumerated the challenges facing the ministry in the implementation of the 2020 budget.
The minister said that one of the challenges the ministry was facing was the movement of officers, ambassadors and their families.
He said that N1.6 billion was required for the movement of ambassadors while officers would require N3.7 billion, making a total of N5.3 billion for the whole movement.
The minister said in addition to what was received in the revised budget, the ministry would require an additional N1.1 billion in 2021 to meet the cost of movement.
He stressed the need to address the inadequate overhead budgetary provisions to the missions, which was resulting to a lot of debt for electricity and rent.
“Just on Monday, the ambassador in Hungary called to say they are going to throw them out from the chancery building. That the landlord is coming and that they do not have the money to pay.
“And we get that from a lot of missions across the world and that is not a sustainable way of running foreign service.
“Then this exchange rate differential with the CBN is really something we need to address once and for all.
“It is not so easy, all of these things are computed in naira and all the payments abroad are in dollars and once the exchange rate is changed, it never goes the other way, it always goes up, it never comes down visa vis the dollar. This means immediate shortfall for all our missions,” he said
The minister said that the ministry required an additional capital allocation of N5 billion to address some of the missions’ renovation needs.
According to him, “a lot of our missions are eyesores and it is just a huge embarrassment to the country that we can have missions in such terrible conditions.”
Onyeama said that between 2012 and 2014, the ministry owed local contractors N1.3 billion.
According to him, “we have been receiving letters from the National Assembly forwarding to us various claims and judgement and asking us to pay them.
“We have a big challenge with clothing allowances, as you know, all officers in our missions from grade level 7 and above are entitled to $2,500 clothing allowance per annum.
“In the 2021 Budget, about 1,312 officers will be expecting the payment of these allowances and if you take at the CBN official rate, we are looking at N1.2 billion.
“What we have available is N762 million for that, to able to pay the clothing allowances, we still need at additional sum of N500 million,” he said.
Onyeama said that the ministry needed N225 million to pay premium for the insurance of the ministry’s headquarters.
According to him, “that is based on an estimate of the value of the building at N12 billion which is a very rare conservative estimate of that building.”
He said that the ministry needed N342 million for the building of infrastructure which “bridge the ICT gap the ministry currently faces.
“I was talking about the ICT deficit, with presence in 110 countries, we believe that the ministry should be in a key position for foreign direct investment and export promotion, leveraging on our physical presence in 110 countries of the world to make that possible.
“It would be a one-stop shop for Nigerian businesses without going through all kinds of bottle necks. We want your consideration to allocate this amount into the envelope.
“Part of what will go for digitizing our missions and the 24-7 health desk that we need to have to keep in touch with Nigerians around the world.
“That will really transform the ministry and get us to do things we need to be doing and add economic values to the country.” (Addittional reports from FO)