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Pruning Nigerian missions abroad

In keeping with the administration’s policy thrust of reducing cost of governance, President Muhammadu Buhari recently declared that the Federal government will soon undertake a…

In keeping with the administration’s policy thrust of reducing cost of governance, President Muhammadu Buhari recently declared that the Federal government will soon undertake a review of Nigeria’s foreign missions with a view to retaining the most essential.
This declaration was made by President Muhammadu Buhari when he received a presentation from the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Bulus Lolo. To buttress government position, President Buhari argued that there was no point operating missions all over the world with dilapidated facilities and demoralized staff when the need for some of the missions was questionable. The proposed review, according to him, will determine the number of essential missions Nigeria needed to maintain abroad so that appropriate standards and quality can be maintained.
There were media reports which indicate that government in the past few years incurred huge debts in maintaining office and residential accommodations for officials of the country’s missions abroad. Worrisome, too, is the allegation that the number of staff on posting to the country’s missions abroad is over blotted; leaving some of them redundant.
Addressing State House correspondents, Ambassador Bulus Lolo said Nigeria currently maintains 119 missions abroad. Explaining the likely approach to reducing the number of the country’s foreign missions, Ambassador Bulus said such is “a function of interest and capacity”.
The downward review in the number of Nigeria’s foreign missions is a laudable measure given the economic realities of the country’s dwindling revenues. It is important to note that the closure of Nigeria’s embassy in a foreign country as a result of the proposed rationalization exercise does not in any way affect the diplomatic relationship between Nigeria and such countries. In such instances, the affected missions will have their consular and other services taken over by proxy embassies within the same sub-region. It is a normal practice world-wide to group countries and establish an embassy in just one; to be responsible for over-seeing the consular duties of the countries under its domain. This is equally not the first time the Nigeria will be cutting down its number of missions abroad because previous administrations have had cause in the past to take similar measures.
Before proceeding to identify which missions should be closed or maintained, we advise government to first set a target of the number of embassies it could feasibly sustain. Given our common interest and homogenous history in the African continent, it would be necessary to maintain a mission in each of the 54 African countries. This is more so because Africa had always been the centre piece of Nigeria’s foreign policy.
The survival of missions in countries outside Africa should, however, depend on interest and capacity. Nonetheless, Nigerian missions in some big interest countries including the United States of America, the United Kingdom, India, Japan, etc; which are strategic to the former’s economic development should be preserved when reviewing the number of existing missions.
Besides protecting the interest of Nigerians in other counties, Nigerian missions abroad have the responsibility of issuing travel documents to foreigners who intend to visit Nigeria for official, business, academic, and other genuine reasons. Due to increase in the growth of trade between nations, a country’s economy becomes part of the global economy. It is therefore imperative for a country to have its ambassador in a country with which it has trade relations so that he would act as an intermediary between cooperative businesses. An ambassador also works for peace between his home country and the host nation. This task could grow into fight against trans-border crimes including terrorism, human and drug trafficking.
After the pruning exercise, surviving missions are encouraged to improve upon the existing economic relationship between Nigeria and the host countries. Government should also work towards improving upon the state of infrastructure as well as the morale of staff at the missions since the number of missions would have been reduced to a manageable size.
The ministry of foreign affairs would require working out how Nigerians and citizens of host countries where our missions shall be closed down would access the services that may include passport renewal and visa applications.

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