Some Nigerian career ambassadors who have retired from service since 2018 have been retained at their duty posts, collecting millions of dollars in allowances in contravention of extant rules and regulations.
A presidency source revealed how President Muhammadu Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, revoked the President’s order to recall the retired ambassadors to Nigeria.
SaharaReporters gathered that as of June 2019, no fewer than 25 career ambassadors have retired from service but are still at their posts collecting millions of dollars in taxpayers’ money illegally.
They include those in Morocco, Cameroon, Cuba, Austria, Kenya, Belgium, Mali, Indonesia, Philippines, Senegal, Hungary, Czech Republic, among others
SaharaReporters learnt that while other Nigerian ambassadors who retired at the headquarters were asked to disengage immediately, these "favored" retired ambassadors, some of whom are now over 60 years old, and served more than 35 years in service, are enjoying their illegal stay abroad.
It was gathered that in December 2018, the immediate past Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, approached President Buhari and informed him of the statutory retirement of over 20 ambassadors.
The source said, “The President agreed with the minister and directed him to recall the retirees immediately in public interest. He further directed him to submit a proposed list of replacements, from deserving career officers.”
The source said the minister sent a telex to the affected ambassadors and demanded them to hand over to the most senior diplomatic officer in their respective missions.
Copies of the letters were obtained by SaharaReporters. One of them, titled, “Letter of recall on account of retirement” was addressed by the former minister to Mr. Sidi Abdullahi Ladan at the Embassy of Nigeria in Tunisia and dated December 2018.
Another reminder, dated February 2, 2019, was addressed to the Overseas Communication Department. The former minister demanded the immediate retirement of the envoys.
The source said, “Few days after this action, Onyeama was summoned to the villa by Kyari where along with Amb. AR Abubakar, they dressed him down and directed him to reverse the directive given by the President.
“In compliance with the order from the power brokers, the minister withdrew the recall and asked the retired ambassadors to remain at their posts illegally, against public interest and presidential directive. This action was brought to the attention of the President, but he did not do anything.”
Explaining why the retired ambassadors were retained, the source noted that Kayri was quoted as boasting that he asked them to stay back to coordinate support for the re-election of Buhari as the majority of them were his loyalists and trusted NIA ambassadors.
It was also gathered that Kyari had consistently refused to forward to the President, the proposed list of replacement of the ambassadors alongside the names submitted by NIA.
The NIA nominees were favored, cleared by the Senate, and have since been deployed to Algeria, Chad and Sao Tome and Principe.
The source added, “Meanwhile, the Head of Civil Service of the Federation has tried to draw the attention of the President to the illegality allowing retired officers to occupy the positions of deserving serving officers. This effort too was frustrated by Kyari.
“Everyone knows how Kyari tried to frustrate the good work of other officials of government who were not loyal to him, including the former National Security Adviser, and Ministers of Information, Transport, Education, Aviation, Labour and Water Resources.
“In the Ministry of Foreign Affairs today, career Foreign Service Officers are disgruntled that retirees have taken over their slots. The same morale-dampening situation in the Armed Forces has now crept into the Foreign Service. Who knows where will be next?
“Under normal circumstances, all the appointed ambassadors, like other political appointees of the government, should have been recalled home after May 29, 2019. But as long as Abba Kyari continues to pull the strings, the worse is yet to be seen.”