Scrap 60 embassies, ex-diplomats tell Buhari

by Dapo Olasinde
(johannesburg, SouthAfrica)

Scrap 60 embassies, ex-diplomats tell Buhari


SEPTEMBER 19, 2015 : SAMUEL AWOYINFA AND GBENRO ADEOYE 10 COMMENTS
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Some ex-diplomats and experts on international affairs have backed President Muhammadu Buhari’s call for a review of the number of Nigeria’s foreign missions abroad, saying that they should be cut by at least 60.

The experts and ex-diplomats, who said the number of Nigerian missions abroad was too many, disclosed this in separate interviews with our correspondents on Friday.

They said Nigeria’s economy, which has recently been on a downturn, could not sustain its 119 foreign missions.

Buhari recently ordered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to review the number of Nigeria’s foreign missions abroad, which are set to cost the country N34bn in 2015.

Commenting on the issue, former ambassador to Sudan and Morocco, Bola Dada, urged the Federal Government to prune its foreign missions to between 40 and 50 because of the economic downturn.

Dada suggested that the government should only maintain embassies in neighbouring countries and other countries that are strategic to Nigeria’s interests.

He said, “I am in total support of the pruning of Nigerian embassies. Even at best of times, Nigeria should not have more than 60 embassies. And now that there is economic downturn in the country, the country should have between 40 and 50 embassies.

“It should not be more than 50. Our economy is in a shambles, we should not pretend all is well. It is quite expensive to maintain an embassy, a lot goes into it.

“In Europe, Nigeria must have embassies in Britain, France, Germany, and Italy. In Arab Gulf states, Saudi Arabia, and one or two others will do. Nigeria must not leave out Japan, China and India in the Asia axis.

“In whatever number the country will eventually pick or retain, the committee responsible for the review must give comprehensible brief on each country to justify having an embassy there.”

A former ambassador to Greece and Australia, Prof. Olu Agbi, also said that “there are a few countries where our interests are minimal and even where Nigerians are not many and where we can reduce our presence there and increase our presence in some other countries.”

He added that the country’s resources cannot adequately maintain its number of foreign missions.

Agbi said, “Does Nigeria have enough resources to take care of all the foreign missions? The answer is no. We don’t have the resources. Even when I was an ambassador, we experienced a lot of shortfall in funding. Sometimes for about three, four months, ambassadors and staff were not paid their salaries. It was that bad so when you have too many missions, most of our diplomats abroad will be suffering.”

A professor of International law and jurisprudence, Akin Oyebode, described diplomacy as an expensive venture, noting that “a full complement of an embassy will have the ambassador, the minister counsellor, the first secretary, second secretary, third secretary, immigration attaché for passport, trade attaché, student attaché, apart from consular services for visa and other things. So, it is a very elaborate process.”

He said, “So, we have to rationalise and take a global look at our embassies, shut down some and ask some embassies for multiple accreditations. For instance, an embassy in Turkey can take care of Philippines and Singapore. We reduce the number and increase the accreditation to save cost.

“In Africa, we might retain Addis Ababa because of the African Union; Pretoria or Johannesburg because South Africa is important, and then Ghana. We might not need in Sierra Leone. In the America, you shut some consulates, maybe New York permanent mission and keep Washington DC, we might close down Mexico and Venezuela.”

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