FG Shuts Nine Foreign Missions, Rationalises Staff


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The Federal Government has
approved the closure of nine
foreign missions and their
conversion to non-residency
representation or concurrent
accreditation, Daily Trust findings have shown.
The closure, our reporters
gathered, is part of measures to
reduce the cost of running
Nigeria’s foreign representations
in line with the economic situation. The affected missions are
those whose absence portend
no serious bilateral or
diplomatic effect sources said.
They include the Permanent
Mission to the D-8 in Istanbul, Turkey; the Africa-South
America Cooperation Forum
(ASACOF) in Caracas,
Venezuela; embassies in
Belgrade, Serbia; Colombo, Sri
Lanka; Kiev, Ukraine; Prague, Czech Republic; the High
Commission in Singapore as
well as Consulates in Buea,
Cameroon and Sao Paulo in
Brazil. Also approved for rationalisation
is the number of officers at
foreign missions, estacode for
local travels and award of
honorary consuls.
The government also ordered that posting staff of home
ministries to foreign missions
should be discontinued, while
Foreign Service officers should
be trained to carry out multiple
tasks including administration, immigration, trade, culture and
education related functions.
Daily Trust learnt that the
rationalisation exercise will
affect all 119 Nigeria’s foreign
missions. Apart from 35 missions, the
government directed that all
other missions should be run by
an ambassador and not more
than three home-based staff.
The level of local staffing, it said, must be controlled.
A letter from the Chief of Staff to
the President, Abba Kyari,
addressed to the Minister of
Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey
Onyeama dated June 8, 2016, said the practice of violating
staffing ceilings for each mission
must be stopped and corrective
measures be put in place.
Consequently, it said, there
should be a review of the staff strength necessary for each
mission.
“Rules and regulations as well as
entitlements (estacode) for local
travels at post should be
reviewed downwards and strict compliance enforced. Similarly,
cost and usage of
communication and utility
services should be reviewed and
drastically reduced, and the
current entitlement of house maids for senior officers other
than the heads of mission and
deputy chiefs of mission, where
applicable should be
discontinued,” it added.
The federal government also discovered that the award of
honorary consuls was open to
abuse by unscrupulous
businessmen. The practice, it
said, should be reviewed in
accordance with international best practices.
“Some of these measures may
have the effect of bloating the
number of Foreign Service
Officers at headquarters. To
address this consequence, officers may be deployed to
other ministries, departments
and agencies to help coordinate
their interface with diplomatic
missions/international
organisations. “State governments should also
be encouraged to receive at least
two Foreign Service officers on
secondment to assist in
providing guidance to their
increasing interface with diplomatic missions/
international organisations,” the
government said.
It said the arrangement would
engender greater coordination
and coherence within the official positions diplomats receive
when they visit ministers or
governors who often make
statements with foreign policy
implications without appropriate
briefs from the Foreign Affairs ministry.
“Through these Foreign Service
liaison officers, not only the MFA
HQ, but our diplomatic missions
abroad, will also be sufficiently
briefed on the activities and conversations of diplomats from
their host countries serving in
Nigeria.
“While this is only one solution,
the MFA should also carefully
examined the consequences of overstaffing at headquarters as a
result of the planned
rationalisation and make other
recommendations to address the
problem. This may include
offering redundant officers redeployment to home ministries
or early retirement from service
without loss of benefit,” the
government said. Redundancy at post An official at the Nigerian
Consulate Office in Georgia,
Atlanta, USA, said some key staff
in the various missions had been
directed by the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs to either do a needs assessment or return
home and evaluate various staff
strength in the missions ahead
of the shake-up.
The official said the need for
some staff at post was questionable, adding that there
are administrative officers that
have been on posting even
when some of their services are
not needed there.
He said some missions are not needed because there is hardly
any serious bilateral trade or
diplomatic impact of some of
those countries, some in Africa
and others in Asia, which the
official noted may not have been reciprocating Nigeria’s
diplomatic gestures. It is bad signal- Kaave A retired diplomat, Ambassador
Chive Kaave, said shutting the
missions sends a signal to the
world that the Nigerian economy
is in bad shape.
“There are some missions that exist only on payment of salaries
to staff at post. They don’t
promote any economic,
educational, cultural or even
consular relations with Nigeria.
Even the staff there do not receive enough funding to meet
obligations.
“If we claim to be the biggest
economy in Africa and cannot
adequately maintain missions
abroad, it is absolutely not good enough for the country.
However, the federal
government should do what is
in the best interest of the
country,” he said. Economic insufficient in
foreign relations A professor of Political Science at
the University of Ilorin, Hassan
Saliu, submits that the argument
on economic reasons for
downsizing Nigeria’s missions
abroad are sound but not sufficient in foreign relations.
He equally argues that the move
to reduce the missions would
harm the country’s standing in
the international community
more than the little money that would be saved from such
decision.
According to him, foreign policy
pursuits are not necessarily
determined by naira or dollar,
but by prestige. He therefore urged a
comprehensive review of the
Nigerian foreign policy which
should precede the decision on
the appropriate number of
diplomatic missions for the country.
“What interest is Nigeria
pursuing that closing the
missions will jeopardise? It is
after recognising the country’s
interests in the international system that you can then
productively and profitably
move to the level of determining
how many missions it should
have.
“Nigeria has been a regional leader and the current president,
in his campaign, assured that he
would restore the country’s
glory in the international system.
My worry is, how do we
reconcile the idea of restoring Nigeria’s glory with the closing
down some missions?,” he
asked.
Prof Saliu called for the review of
Nigeria’s foreign policy. “We
cannot hold to be successful if we still carry on with the Balewa-
inspired foreign policy agenda.
Let’s review and arrive at a
conclusion whether we want to
limit ourselves to issues that
concern only Nigeria or be a regional and global actor,” he
added.
He said the effect of closing some
missions is that Nigeria may not
get the support of the affected
countries whenever the need arises.
“They will not go along with us
whenever we are championing
any course at the international
level.
Nigeria has been talking about reciprocity, that we have been
helping countries in Africa and
they don’t reciprocate. I don’t
know if the idea of closing those
missions would make them
reciprocate our gesture. The government should pursue
the policy with caution. We had
reduced in the past but we
ended up re-opening them at a
very high cost. This is an issue
we should think of before taking any action,” he said.