By Adedayo Akinwale
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, has lamented that Nigeria’s foreign missions are full of embarrassing stories.
Gbajabiamila stated this yesterday at a two-day public hearing that was organised by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs to investigate incessant malpractices associated with diplomatic postings and deliberate draining of resources in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
He noted that the ministry, its departments and agencies, including the country’s missions all over the world, exists to promote the interests of Nigeria and protect the wellbeing of Nigerians across the globe.
But the House, according to him, has received petitions and pleadings from Nigerians at home and abroad alleging varying degrees of malpractice and malfeasance in the ministry’s operations and its subordinate departments and agencies.
The speaker stressed that while these assertions were not conclusions, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs should exercise the House constitutional authority to conduct a thorough investigation that would either substantiate or refute these allegations by relying on available evidence and the contributions of stakeholders.
He said: “Personally, let me say that there’s hardly a country I visited that there are no embarrassing stories in our missions. I visited many right from my time as the Minority Leader and House Leader and I can recall such stories.”
Gbajabiamila, however, assured that it was not the intention of the House to act in a manner that singles out any individual or group; neither is it its desire to take punitive action as a matter of politics.
Speaking, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffery Onyema, explained that the administrative charges reintroduced by Nigerian missions were because of lack of budgetary appropriation.
Onyema explained: “On the issues of administrative charges, these had actually been stopped for a number of years. But as you know, the big challenge that all our missions are getting, you will approve the budget, appropriation will not be made, the missions will not receive what they are supposed to receive, they will not receive them on time and we face huge challenges.
“So, it was decided that we might restore these administrative charges and I think that is where we have erred in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. These were rolled out maybe too soon without sufficient consultation with the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS). We have already discussed it with the Comptroller General of the NIS and we have resolved to work together and have one harmonised and composite administrative fee for all our missions.”
On his part, the Comptroller General of the NIS, Mr. Muhammed Babandede, denied allegations of nepotism in posting officers to foreign missions.
Babandede stated that officers of NIS lobby the Speaker, the Senate President or even ministers to influence their postings due to the fact that only 54 people are on foreign missions.