OrderPaperToday – The House of Representatives has frowned at the practice of zero capital budgetary allocation for foreign missions.
This is as the House decried the deplorable conditions of the country’s missions abroad and expressed concern over cases of indiscriminate posting of Foreign Service Officers above the approved ceiling.
The members of the green chamber raised the above concerns while deliberating on the report submitted by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, chaired by Mr. Yusuf Buba (APC, Adamawa) last Wednesday. The Committee had constituted and dispatched a delegation to some foreign missions on a fact-finding exercise.
Reading the report at plenary, Mr. Buba noted that “the delegation discovered that over 70% of our Foreign Missions across the world have for several years received zero allocation in their capital budget year in year out. As a result of the above, this reality has led to infrastructural and structural 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 our Missions abroad to rest.”
The report also identified “overshooting of ceiling on Presidential Approval of Smart Missions,” explaining that “Mr. President as part of reforms of the Foreign Service, had sometime in 2020 approved the operation of smart Missions in over 75 Nigerian Missions across the world. This was in order to reduce funding costs.
“The Committee, in the course of the assignment under review, discovered cases of indiscriminate postings above the approved ceiling of Mr. President for Foreign Service Officers. 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 ground indicates that the Nigerian Standard Passport and others are still being printed outside the shores of our country.
“The delegation, in its consideration, 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 the printing abroad, while commencing production locally. The foregoing will enable Nigeria as a nation service the increasing need of its citizens, especially, those abroad.”
The lawmaker also said its delegation further observed the lack of synergy by various government agencies thereby causing a major setback.
“A typical Nigerian Mission abroad is propped by officers from the below bodies/organizations:
(a) Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(b) Nigerian Immigration Service
(c) National Intelligence Agency
(d) The Nigerian Military
(e) Accountants from Office of the Accountant General of the Federation.
“The delegation, in the course of its assignment, discovered very serious and unhealthy rivalry among officers of these bodies/organizations, who are serving at each of the Embassies/High Commissions abroad. In spite of the fact that 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.
“There was even a case where the delegation was informed that the military attaché at post left the Embassy building to rent office space elsewhere and, again, where Immigration officers started to issue visa without the vetting of the Mission’s Consular Officer (usually, NIA Officers).
“All of the above anomalies, the delegation opines, can be addressed by a serious definition of roles and the establishment of boundaries (or precincts of duty) for officers at post no matter from what body, agency or department they have come. The head of the Mission is the Ambassador/High Commissioner or Consular General who all the officers in the Mission must report to”.
The above observations were sequel to oversight visits to the Nigerian Consulates in different countries such as; Atlanta, Georgia, United Sates of America, and the Nigerian High Commission in Kingston and Jamaica.