OrderPaperToday – The House of Representatives has summoned the minister and permanent secretary of the ministry of foreign affairs for orders to foreign missions allegedly hindering implementation of the budget.
The House also requested the ministry to rescind contents of a letter countering an earlier one written by its committee on foreign affairs which demanded compliance with the provisions of Section 11 of the 2022 Appropriation Act.
The above resolution was sequel to a motion which came under matters of urgent national importance titled, “a motion calling on the federal government to mandatorily compel the ministry of foreign affairs to implement the provisions of the 2022 Appropriation Act (S.11), which empowers Nigeria Embassies/High Commissions across the world to spend the capital components of their budget without recourse to the headquarters of the ministry”.
The motion which generated heated debate from lawmakers during plenary was sponsored by Mr. Maigari Bello Kasımu representing Jalingo/yorro and zing federal constituency of Taraba under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The members were obviously unhappy and disrespected over the ministry’s refusal to abide by the directive of the House and the Constitution.
According to a letter sighted by OrderPaper which was purportedly written and signed by Ambassador Gabriel Aduda, permanent secretary of the ministry the foreign missions were asked to stay action on spending the funds allocated to them until clarification is sought from the presidency.
According to the letter, “attention of the ministry has been drawn to a memo circulating on the social media on the above subject Ref/NASS/HRFAC/9th/070/936 dated on the 9th January 20222 conveying the provision of the 2022 Appropriation Act empowering missions to spend their capital allocation without henceforth, seeking approval from the headquarters.
“The ministry will need to seek clarification from the presidency and the Senate. Consequently, given the need for a unified position on the subject, all missions are directed to stay action on the memo under reference.
Leading debate on the matter, Kasımu stressed that, “for a very long time the ministry of foreign affairs headquarters has been steeped in various practices, actions and inactions that have negatively affected quality service-delivery in the ministry and, especially, at post, where the nation’s image has been largely impugned by untoward media reports and other negative realities in the public domain that reveal the inability of Ambassadors/High Commissioners, who are representatives of Mr. President, to settle ground rents, pay utility bills, purchase vehicles or rehabilitate dilapidated infrastructure in chancery buildings and quarters occupied by Foreign Service Officers across the globe.
“Nigerian Foreign Missions and Service Officers have been at the receiving end of the negative effects of the actions and inactions of the ministry of foreign affairs headquarters, which have sometimes resulted in hiring taxis for diplomats on official duties and in the forceful ejection of Ambassadors/High Commissions and other Foreign Service Officers from rented apartments with their personal effects and other property thrown into the streets of capital cities of the world even when such Embassies/High Commissions have budgeted capital funds lying unutilised in various bank accounts.”
Reacting to the motion, chairman House Committee on foreign affairs, Mr. Yakubu Buba said the state of foreign missions is distasteful, stressing that “this is already a law and has been added into the 2022 Appropriation act and it has been assented to but as we speak it is a law that must be obeyed.
“Mr. speaker, I want to commend the leadership of the National Assembly and its members of the House for that invention. Our Embassies have become laughing stock all over the world, they are so dilapidated that our Ambassadors cannot invite their fellow Ambassadors to the residences or to the Nigerian Houses.
“Mr. speaker it has gotten to the stage that our Ambassadors have to hire taxis or sometimes the vehicles break down and they will have to remove the flag and hide it to cover up the shame.
‘We have visited so many embassies all over the world even in November when we went to Niger, I entered the toilet in the Ambassador’s toilet and it was blocked, water was everywhere and Niger is a country in the desert, there was no functional AC in that embassy.
“When we visited Washington Mr. speaker, the cooling system there was not working. We found Nigerians who have come to seek for consular services removing their clothes because of heat due to the hot weather, started shouting at us that what type of country is this. The problem is when we went for over-sight with the ministry in 2020 and entered the registry, we found letters there that are up to six months, letters written to the Minister, National Assembly, to the permanent secretary. When we asked the Ambassadors why they are not keeping the embassy up to date, they will say we have written to the Ministry for like six months, one year”, he stated.
The Speaker, on his part, said “the law says that the embassy should not go through the public procurement and what does the constitution say about monies appropriated by the national assembly. I believe the constitution says no money shall be spent except in a manner as prescribed by the national assembly and this is the manner the national assembly has prescribed that these monies should be spent and for good reasons many of which both the sponsor of the motion and the chairman of enumerated.
“İ have seen personal experience of embassies abroad and it is a shameful that the national assembly is trying to make things better for those we send out to represent us and some people are resisting. Minister Foreign Affairs should see me on Tuesday and I would like to have you as well.”
The motion was overwhelmingly supported by the members when Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila put the question.