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Appoint ambassadors now

It has been eight months since President Bola Ahmed Tinubu ordered the recall of Nigerian envoys on September 2, 2023. In the statement recalling the…

It has been eight months since President Bola Ahmed Tinubu ordered the recall of Nigerian envoys on September 2, 2023. In the statement recalling the envoys, presidential spokesman Ajuri Ngelale said, “The president is determined to ensure that world-class efficiency and quality will henceforth characterise foreign and domestic services delivery to citizens, residents and prospective visitors.’’

Since the president’s announcement, Nigeria’s 109 diplomatic missions, comprising 76 embassies, 22 high commissions and one consulate have been left without full diplomatic representation in the rank of ambassadors.  The lack of full representation at the ambassadorial level in the Nigerian missions abroad has continued to negatively affect the country’s foreign relations thrust.

This has expectedly raised concerns among Nigerian foreign policy experts and former diplomats. The main concern has to do with the fact that the Charge d’ Affaires who are now running the missions in the absence of ambassadors do not have the commensurate weight and rank to meet with the foreign ministers of their host countries going by diplomatic protocols and procedures. As officers at the director level in the civil service, their ranking does not accord them the right to operate at the highest possible level in representing Nigeria in their host countries and in international fora.

For a country like Nigeria, the absence of full diplomatic representation at its missions and in global organizations and institutions abroad constitutes a serious cog in the wheel of the administration’s avowed intention to achieve its political, diplomatic and economic goals.

As it is, this development robs Nigeria of the necessary diplomatic drivers to push through the nation’s foreign policy objectives which President Tinubu has espoused repeatedly.

The president has always stated his desire to implement grand economic schemes in the country. Since coming to office about 10 months ago, he has visited a number of countries in pursuit of this important goal. He has also played host to delegations of foreign investors and interests who have expressed interest in assisting Nigeria in its quest for development. A lot of agreements across various fields of endeavour have been pledged and signed, all awaiting follow-up at the highest levels.

Our world too is undergoing momentous development and changes. In the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) of which Nigeria is the undoubted leader, we have seen challenges to the civil democratic order in some countries with the overthrow of civilian governments by the military. We have also witnessed the spike in insurgency and terrorism by non-state actors, threatening the stability of the sub-region. There is also the issue of emerging blocs like BRICS etc, where a new architecture of global interaction is being developed by countries across the globe.

It is clearly disheartening that all these are happening while Nigeria’s full diplomatic presence is absent in countries and global organizations that it relates to. This should be viewed with all seriousness as it means Nigeria’s necessary input in the proceedings on some of the bilateral issues will not be felt.

In this regard, diplomatic experts have also expressed concern that considering how long it takes for the process of nominating and screening of ambassadors here in Nigeria and the necessary clearance from designated host countries, we may not be able to have them in place soon. In the words of former Nigerian Ambassador to the United States, Joe Keshi, “You don’t just call somebody and say, ‘you go to America’. When you agree on the person you want to send, you have to send his papers and every other thing to the country and until they accept, you don’t announce….This could take six months or even a year in some cases.’’  

We understand that issues such as funding of the diplomatic missions could be holding the appointment of ambassadors. We are also aware that the backlog of payments to the last batch of diplomats who have finished their tour of duties still remains to be cleared.

In responding to these issues, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs assured that it was on top of the situation. Alkassim Abdulkadir, a spokesman to the minister, Ambassador Yusuf Tuggar, said the government will soon appoint new ambassadors, as ongoing checks on those to be nominated have almost been concluded. Abdulkadir also rejected the claim that the embassies were not functioning as they should due to the absence of ambassadors.

He said, “There are officers in the embassies that have continued their work because they are staff of the ministry. In the last month, I have been to about four missions and things are going on…The charge d’ affairs has taken on the work of the ambassadors very well. There are no lapses anywhere.’’

All said. For a country that is regarded as the leader of Africa and the black world, it is unacceptable that our diplomatic missions abroad continue to function at less than full strength. Apart from the loss of opportunities to pursue necessary bilateral issues that are germane to our quest for development, it hardly helps our image in the comity of nations. Accordingly, whatever is needed to ensure full diplomatic representation with a complement of ambassadors appointed to head our missions abroad should be done without further delay.


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