Says Nigeria’s Foreign Missions,
symbol of ridicule, dishonour

SENATE yesterday descended heavily on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs over what it described as its growing failure to portray Nigeria as a responsible entity before the international community through its foreign missions abroad. This was just as the Upper Chamber through its committee on Foreign Affairs slammed the Ministry for its refusal to provide requested information regarding performance of the 2016 budget. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Khadija Bukar Abba, in an address delivered to the Senate committee during an oversight visit to the Foreign Affairs Ministry yesterday, lamented poor funding for the ministry, a development which she said was due to the decision of the National Assembly to review the ministry’s budget downward by almost N3 billion. According to the Minister, the allocation of the ministry in the 2016 budget was severely affected by prevailing exchange rate which is officially over N320 to $1 (USD). She added that as a result, the subsequent remission to the CBN has been reduced to less than 60 percent. Khadija Bukar Abba said that due to the development, “Most of the missions are over burdened by arrears running into months of unpaid bills of missions and salaries of local staff.” But veering away from the issue of insufficient funds, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Senator Monsurat Sunmonu, noted that the reason for the committee’s visit was not to deliberate on whether or not funds allocated to the ministry was sufficient, but to hold it accountable for expenditures made so far, and the performance of the 2016 budget in particular. “We Senators are here to oversight the ministry in accordance with the requirements of the constitution. The committee wrote severally to your ministry demanding details to guide us in our oversight duty, but regrettably until this minute, we haven’t received any response to that effect.” Senator Sunmonu, who also sought clarification into how N2.3billion appropriated for local travels was expended, further requested details on rent, insurance, medical, purchase of vehicles, and their beneficiaries. The Committee Chairman also asked the ministry of foreign affairs to account for N3.6billion allocated for posting of Ambassadors, all of who according to her, are yet to be posted to serve in their respective missions abroad despite provision of funds for the purpose. Throwing his weight behind Sunmonu, Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee, Senator Shehu Sani, called on the Ministry to immediately intervene in salvaging the image of the country before the international community by working in concert with the Senate committee. According to the lawmaker
who represents Kaduna Central Senatorial district in the upper chamber, the feigned ignorance of the ministry to the plight of its foreign missions abroad had resulted in a situation which saw Nigeria’s missions “washing their dirty linen in the market” He said: “It is very unfortunate to read in the newspapers how Nigerian diplomats are embarrassed in their foreign missions, and here we are talking about insufficient allocation. We cannot afford to send people out of this country and subject them to ridicule and dishonour. “I think there is a need for us
(Senate committee), to work hand in hand with the ministry to see how this can be resolved. The symbol of shame and dishonour has always been the mission in New York.” The lawmaker continued: “I think we need to brace up to get this issue clear. There is an adage that says we shouldn’t wash our dirty linen in public, but ours is done in the market. So, permanent secretary, you need to brace up in terms of responding to the queries of the committee because not doing so may be disastrous on the image of the country,” Sani added.

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