Foreign Affairs Ministry Not Priority for Govt, Onyeama Laments

Geoffrey Onyeama

By Adedayo Akinwale

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, has lamented that his ministry appears not to be a priority for the federal government.

The minister disclosed this yesterday in Abuja when he appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs to defend the 2021 budget estimates of his ministry.

Onyeama also lamented that a lot of the country’s foreign missions are eyesore, describing it as a terrible embarrassment for the country to have the foreign missions in such state.

He noted that due to poor funding, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) is trying to rationalise and cut down on the international organisations that Nigeria belongs to.

According to Onyeama, “When you look at what the ministry gets, compared to other ministries, foreign affairs ministry is underfunded, especially when you compare it to similar countries and even smaller countries like Egypt and South Africa, which have similar number of missions to our own, and you would find out that you just cannot compare (them). Ours is really much lower. And, of course, there are competing interests; we have security issues, as education takes a lot of the budget, but I think that any suggestion of collaboration between us and your committee to try to get more will be welcome.

“On the question or suggestion on how you can help, I think that at the end of the day, it is probably a question of priority of the government. Foreign Affairs, if we just look at all the ministries, we would really see that it is almost as if foreign affairs ministry is not a priority. But it should be one of the biggest consuming ministries.

“And for the size of a country, the giant Africa, we are supposed to defend the interest of Africa and the black race around the world. We have a vast network of technical assistance programme to the pacific, to the Caribbean and to other Africa countries, and we want to be a big player, which sits at the table as one of the countries running the world, and to be able to do that, we just need many resources.”

Earlier, the Chairman of the committee, Hon. Yusuf Yakub, said Nigeria remains the whipping child of the world, buffeted on all sides, while the country’s nationals still suffer the poor fate of carrying the green passport that much part of the world hates to see.

He said while the problem was not about the ministry or the House, he expressed concern that Nigeria cannot get its international image to fit into the acceptable module of the international community.

Yakub stressed that the way the ministry appears and operates today, it is hardly the contemplation of anyone that has the interest of the Nigerian at heart.

He added: “From Ghana to Gabon, South Africa to Libya, Nigerians remain at the receiving end of, most times, state-supported violence and all forms of ill-treatment in foreign jurisdictions, including Europe, the Americas and Asia.”