The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is fast squeezing the life out of the country’s diplomatic missions abroad through diversion and misuse of millions of dollars allocated to cover shortfalls in the over 100 embassies and consular offices.
In recent times, some of the missions have been shut down, while Nigerian diplomats have been ejected from their official quarters over non-payment of rents.
The most recent example of the problems faced by the country’s embassies occurred on May 3, when the staff of the Nigerian Embassy in Washington DC, United States, shut down activities at the Chancery in protest over unpaid salaries. The embarrassing event forced the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Sola Enikanolaiye, to direct the payment of three out of the five months the staff is being owed.
Sources told SaharReporters that the anger of the staff in Washington is about to be replicated by other consular staff in Atlanta and New York, who have not been paid for six months. There are fears that if they go ahead, the protest will expose the financial malfeasance in Nigerian embassies around the world. Authoritative sources told SaharaReporters that the Federal Government always makes funds available for the running of the embassies, but corruption by officials of the Foreign Affairs Ministry impedes the flow of funds to the embassies.
Recently, the National Assembly approved billions of naira in extra-budgetary allocation to the Foreign Affairs Ministry to enable it to take care of the shortfall in 2016 allocations to missions abroad.
The shortfall, explained a Ministry source, was caused by the fluctuation in the value of the naira to the dollar. Immediately the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) released the funds, added the source, the Permanent Secretary issued a strongly worded circular to all missions, directing them to seek his approval before spending the money.
The source maintained that the missions have been compliant and have provided detailed breakdowns of how they plan to spend the money allocated to take care of the shortfall.
However, until the 3 May protest in Washington DC, not a single mission had been able to secure an approval. As a result, embassies and consulates- general are still unable to pay staff salaries or repay other debts incurred.
To make matters worse, SaharaReporters learned, the Finance Department of the Foreign Affairs Ministry issued another circular directing diplomatic missions to give priority to payment of passages to officers returning to the headquarters in Abuja.
This is to ensure that missions use funds allocated to bridge shortfalls to get officials back to Nigeria, ignoring the consequences of leaving their host countries without offsetting their liabilities. A source, however, disclosed that funds had already been provided for the movement of such officials and their families back to Nigeria.
“This money, running into millions of dollars, is about to be stolen. Yet, there is hardly any Nigerian Diplomatic Mission abroad that is not owing staff salaries or indebted to service providers,” disclosed a source.
SaharaReporters recently published reports of the absence of fidelity in the selection process for career ambassadors and the disgraceful loss to Algeria of the position of Commissioner for Peace and Security Commission in the African Union.