A new scheme designed by officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to steal funds allocated to over 100 cash-stricken Nigerian diplomatic missions has been uncovered by SaharaReporters. An investigation by SaharaReporters revealed that the major operator of the scheme is Ambassador Sola Enikanolaiye, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who is enjoying that active support of the Director of Finance and Accounts (DFA).
The duo has refused to give approval to the requests for fund disbursements to 60 diplomatic missions. Insiders disclosed that only the Nigerian Embassy in Washington DC, United States, has had funds approved for it.
The only reason the Embassy in Washington DC got funds was because, on May 3 , the Embassy was rocked by workers’ protest over unpaid salaries, an event which resulted in the shutting down of activities in the Chancery.
This website gathered that the DFA has been instructed by the Permanent Secretary to reduce to the barest minimum funds to be approved for diplomatic missions.
A senior accountant in the department, who spoke with SaharaReporters on the condition of anonymity, disclosed that the DFA specifically directed staff of the department to ensure that recommendations for disbursements to missions abroad are sufficiently trimmed to ensure that a big enough pool of funds to be looted is left behind.
As things stand, said sources, no Nigerian diplomat has been paid Foreign Service Allowance since March. Similarly, there have not been any remittances to any diplomatic post for payment of rent, utilities, health, insurance and educational supplement since January. A statement by the Ministry’s spokesperson, Dr. Clement Aduku, confirmed the plight of staff of the diplomatic missions abroad.
“Priorities are currently being accorded to local staff salaries, rent, utilities, education supplement and allowances for 2016,” the statement said.
Dated 8 May, the statement also confirmed that only 42 percent (N6.8billion) of the N16.3 billion approved by the National Assembly has been cash backed and sent to the diplomatic missions. But rather than allow embassies to quickly use the lifeline to solve some of their financial problems and redeem the country’s image, the Permanent Secretary ordered diplomats not to make payments other than to returning officers.
One of such instructions to all Heads of Chancery is contained in a cable (ACCTS/F329/11/88) from the ministry’s Overseas Communications Department.
Dated 11 April and signed by Adedeoyin Ifedun, Assistant Director (Funds), on behalf of the Permanent Secretary, the cable instructed Heads of Chancery to accord priority to return passages.
Titled “Utilisation of Shortfall/Intervention Funds”, the cable read: “Eye am directed to inform that further to the directive of the Permanent Secretary on the utilization of shortfall funds comma missions are requested to forward their proposal to headquarters for approval. Eye am to add that the decision to accord priority to return passages is sacrosanct.”
The cable also put a lie to the claim by Dr. Aduku that “no instruction has gone out for passages to be paid from the shortfall”.
Sources disclosed that the Permanent Secretary is desirous of getting many officers to return from their duty posts abroad in the hope cornering the remaining 58 per cent of the shortfall funds when cash backed.
SaharaReporters had on 6 May, exposed how corruption in the Foreign Affairs Ministry is squeezing life out of Nigerian diplomatic missions abroad. The expose detailed how Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials attempted to criminally divert millions of dollars appropriated by the National Assembly for the country’s cash-strapped diplomatic missions abroad. In response, Dr. Aduku had issued a statement in which he confirmed, as reported by SaharaReporters, that the Permanent Secretary issued a circular to all missions, directing them to seek his approval before spending any part of the money allocated to them to take care of the shortfall in 2016 allocations.
Dr. Aduku’s statement had claimed that the Permanent Secretary’s directive was issued to “ensure judicious use of resources as well as check excesses of some Heads of Mission”.
The shortfall in the allocations to embassies was caused the volatility of the exchange rate of the naira to the dollar.