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Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
The federal government has backed down from a move to review the number of foreign missions.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, disclosed this at the 22nd edition of the PMB Administration Scorecard Series (2015-2023) in Abuja.
The federal government had in October last year, inaugurated a 13-man presidential committee, headed by Ambassador Martin Uhomoibi, to review the number of the country’s diplomatic missions worldwide and their level of chronic indebtedness.
But Onyeama said pruning down the number of foreign missions could undermine Nigeria’s bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council as well as create challenges of reimbursing local workers affected by any lay off.
He said reducing the size of the foreign missions is not an option as many Nigerian citizens, who transact business in different countries will also require consular support and assistance.
“We do want to rationalise but in a true challenge, we are a major power in Africa who aspires to the Security Council membership. Nigeria is looked upon as the biggest in Africa, so we must have a wide presence in a number of countries,” Onyeama said.
He warned it would cost millions of dollars to close down one mission in one country and pay off the local staff because of extant local laws on pensions and other things.
While providing comparison of other African states in support of his argument, Onyeama said South Africa has 103 embassies, 96 consulates, similar to Nigeria that has -110 foreign missions, while Egypt has 125 embassies and 30 consulates, Algeria 96 and Morocco 97 embassies.
“And as I said when they talk about which African country will be a permanent seat, we insist it has to be Nigeria, but you have to be present and show you deserve to be leading Africa and you can’t sit back and expect to have result.”
He also justified the 51 foreign trips embarked upon by President Muhammadu Buhari since 2015, saying he had used those visits to engage with other leaders and maintain confidence.
“In Japan we met with President of Toyota, who said they were going to establish a plant in Ghana. But President Buhari objected, saying Nigeria is a country of 200 million people and Ghana is a country of 20 million people and questioned the logic of selling vehicles to Nigeria from Ghana? Now Japanese government has taken that on board, and they are trying to work it out,” Onyeama said.