The parlous condition of the state of almost 130 Nigerian embassies and missions across the world were laid bare in Abuja, yesterday, during the 2019 budget defence session of the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The meeting held with members of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs.
One of the most worrisome of the level of dilapidation the affected embassies are facing arising from inadequate funding over the years is the toilet of Nigerian Embassy in Moscow, Russia, stinking as a result of non-functionality of the flusher.
Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Ambassador Mustapha Suleiman lamented that the N4.123 billion capital votes proposed for the missions for the 2019 fiscal year out of the entire N7.6 billion proposed for the entire Ministry can only cover 30 out of the 110 missions critically in need of funding.
According to him, the N4.123 billion capital votes proposed for the 110 missions is a far cry from N11.333 billion earmarked in 2018, as it signified a reduction of N7.209 billion or 64 per cent.
“As a result of this, only 30 missions could be considered out of 110 missions for purchase of representational car, renovation/completion of ongoing projects. Distinguished senators on a general note, it is pertinent to mention that the capital budget proposal for the ministry is grossly inadequate to cater for the line items.
“It is imperative to state that the budget ceiling brought down the capital budget from the 2018 appropriation level of N20.198 billion to N7.618 billion representing a 62 per cent reduction. In particular, headquarters 2018 capital budget of N5.717 billion as compared to the sum of N2.553 billion in 2019 proposal means a reduction of N3.163 billion (55 per cent)
“This will affect the operation of capital projects, postings and return entitlement of ambassadors and officers, UNGA, AU and contribution to International Organisation etc, for the year 2019,” he lamented.
However, in their response, members of the committee headed by Monsurat Sunmonu, wondered why the ministry, in spite of the sorry state of Nigerian missions abroad, came up with meagre budgetary proposals for 2019.
Specifically, the vice chairman of the committee, Shehu Sani accused the Federal Government of not showing seriousness in the running of the nation’s embassies over the years .
“Year in, year out, based on budgetary proposals and poor implementations, the government at the centre has not been serious about her responsibility as a country. No responsible nation that has clear cut development-driven and visionary foreign policy will deliberately underfund her foreign missions.
“For the past four years, this committee has been over-sighting this ministry in terms of budgetary appropriations and other assistance, no significance progress can be said to have been made….
“It is saddening that from all indications and based on budgetary proposals tabled before this committee, government is not making any serious attempt in tackling the global ridicule that far smaller countries like Cuba, Jamaica etc, are not facing.”
But the Permanent Secretary disclosed that a committee had been set up by the Presidency to tackle all the embarrassing issues raised.