President Bola Tinubu

Tinubu Fails To Replace Recalled Ambassadors, 5 Months After

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Five months later, President Bola Tinubu is yet to appoint new ambassadors after recalling all those representing the country around the world.

Recall that President Tinubu on September 2, 2023, ordered the recall of all Nigeria’s ambassadors and envoys with immediate effect.

Daily Trust reports that Nigeria has 109 diplomatic missions worldwide comprising 76 embassies, 22 high commissions and 11 consulates.

Since independence in 1960, Nigeria has maintained diplomatic ties with many countries. Even though there have been reports of dearth of activities at some of Nigeria’s embassies, high commissions and consulates, experts who spoke to Daily Trust said countries were taken more seriously when they were visible diplomatically.

President Bola Tinubu
President Bola Tinubu

while asking Nigeria’s diplomats to come back in September, presidential spokesman, Ajuri Ngelale, in a statement, said, “The president is determined to ensure that world-class efficiency and quality will henceforth characterise foreign and domestic service delivery to citizens, residents and prospective visitors.”

He said the decision was sequel to a careful study of the present state of affairs at Nigerian consulates and embassies worldwide.

A former diplomat, who spoke to Daily Trust on condition of anonymity, said the long delay in appointing ambassadors could affect the relationship between Nigeria and some countries as some countries might not be open to deal with a lower diplomatic representation in their dealings with a country.

He said, “A Charge d Affairs may not be allowed to have meetings with a foreign minister of the host country because his position is just equivalent to that of a director. So, he may have limitations in handling serious issues which require higher authority from his host country.”

While speaking with a national daily recently, a Deputy Vice Chancellor (DVC) at the Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, Professor Damilola Olawuyi (SAN), recalled that President Tinubu took office with a vow to put international diplomacy at the centre of the country’s development strategy.

He said, “There have indeed been positive signs of such increased global engagements, with Nigeria playing key roles in landmark international summits such as the United Nations General Assembly in New York and the most recent COP-28 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

“However, 2023 was generally a slow and underwhelming start in terms of a clear and discernible foreign policy agenda. Early blunders such as the outrage and backlash that trailed the rushed recall of Nigerian ambassadors were a preventable embarrassment for a country of Nigeria’s stature.

“Furthermore, more than six months after taking office, many of our diplomatic missions have no clear leadership structure in place, while uncertainties also surround our representation in the UN bodies.

“This means that no matter the excellent progress the president makes when he embarks on foreign missions, there is little or no structure in place for clear and actionable follow-up.

“No country will feel confident to engage with an ambassador whose future is hanging in the balance. There is, therefore, an urgent need to resolve the appointment of new and returning ambassadors as soon as possible, including Nigeria’s representation at UN bodies such as WTO, WIPO and UNESCO.”

‘We do things upside down in Nigeria’

A former Nigerian Ambassador to the United States (US), Joe Keshi, expressed reservation over the rationale behind the recall of all the ambassadors at the same time considering the work that would go into trying to replace them at the same time.

Keshi said, “Nigeria is a unique country; we do things upside down. Now, replacing them is a headache. That is why under Gen Sani Abacha they didn’t make that mistake…”

On the implication of not naming new ambassadors some months after recalling the serving ones, the diplomat noted that it took a long time to replace an ambassador.

He explained that, “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 (the receiving country) accept, you don’t announce.

“It is when they have concluded all the work, the background and everything, because we do the same thing. When they want to nominate somebody, they send all the details and we tell our NIA and DSS to check on the person. This could take six months, some have taken one year.”

Meanwhile, a source at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Daily Trust that, “Meetings have been going on with stakeholders to ensure that the right people are appointed for the job in line with the president’s foreign policy direction.

“These people are going to be from all the 36 states, including the FCT. Some of them are career ambassadors and some are non-career ambassadors.”

‘New ones to be announced soon’

Corroborating what the foreign affairs ministry’s source said, Alkasim Abdulkadir, the spokesman to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yusuf Tuggar, said there was no cause for alarm as the government was working on the appointment of new ambassadors soon.

He said, “Their replacements are being worked on by President Tinubu. Very soon new ambassadors would be announced.”

He explained that there was no delay in the process of appointment of new ambassadors, adding that, “It is a natural process.”

He further said, “The task of selecting those who will represent Nigeria is not something that can be done in a day. You have to look at the track record of these people; you have to look at their loyalty and relationship to the government of Nigeria; you have to do security checks; you have to do background checks up to their primary schools, because these people will be representing Nigeria.”

Abdulkadir rejected the claim that activities had been on hold in Nigerian missions across the world as a result of the delay in the appointment of new ambassadors.

He said, “There are officers that have continued their work because they are staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In the last month, I have gone to about four missions and things are going on. The work is going on.

“I just came back from Saudi Arabia; all the meetings that the minister had were handled by the staff of the mission; the acting ambassador and the consul-general.

“The chargés d’affaires have taken on the work of the ambassadors very well and finely. There are no lapses anywhere.”

While assuring that the relationship between Nigeria and host governments was intact despite not having ambassadors in place in the foreign missions, he said, “That is why we have a mission or an embassy in the country. There are people who are working in those embassies. Like I told you, everything is going on fine.”

Daily Trust further reports that in December, 2022, a report published by this newspaper showed that Nigerian embassies and consulates were in a sorry state and soiled by corruption.

The report was anchored by #OurVotesCount (OVC), an initiative of the National Association of Seadogs (NAS).

The independently funded report on some selected Nigerian missions, titled: “State of Nigerian embassies and consulates, 2022”, was presented by a former Nigerian Ambassador to Mexico, Ogbole Amedu-Ode, at an event in Abuja.

The report reads in part: “Although not in high proportion as with the case in most public institutions at home, the research found that some Nigerian embassies and consulates are also soiled by corruption.

“There are reported cases of visitors being asked to pay non-official fees for services that should either come for free or cheaper.”

The report also noted that Nigerian embassies and consulates were poorly funded, stressing that most of them were housed in unbefitting structures.

The report also noted non-digitisation of services, unavailability of courier services, outdated queuing procedures and biometric-related inefficiencies, lack of good physical infrastructure, poor internet and information technology facilities, limited level of interaction between embassy officials and Nigerians in the diaspora and poor staff attitude.

The report recommended the elimination of bureaucratic bottlenecks and delays that make it possible for corrupt tendencies, especially with regards to the imposition of extra charges for express services

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