A major shake-up in Nigeria’s embassies and high commissions is in the offing – in order to reduce the high costs of running them.
Indeed, the Federal Government may have concluded plans to close down some foreign missions and scale down others.
A competent Foreign Affairs’ Ministry source told The AUTHORITY that the planned rationalisation is part of the government’s efforts to “prune the number of our Embassies and High Commissions as a means of drastically cutting the cost of maintaining them – which is very high – especially given our current economic situation.”
The source further said that “a possible reason” President Buhari refused to include politicians in his list of ambassadorial nominees is that, in the light of the country’s present “current expenditure challenges, he considers it cheaper to maintain career diplomats overseas than politicians”.
“In any case, with the planned closure of several embassies/high commissions, there won’t be enough locations to post politicians to, since even some of the career diplomats are headed home, more or less,” the official said.
Highlights of the presidential directive on rationalisation showed that Nigeria is set to shut its missions in the Association of the Countries of the Free (ASCOF) with headquarters in Caracas, Venezuela; in D-8 nations with headquarters in Istanbul, Turkey, Singapore and Belgrade, capital of Serbia.
Also to be closed are the country’s missions in Colombia, Sri Lanka; Buena, capital of the South West Region of Cameroon and Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Similarly, six missions are to be downgraded. They include those in Bujumbra, capital of Burundi; Tunis, capital of Tunisia; Tripoli, Libya; Bangui Central African Republic (CAR); Kinshasa, DRC and Athens, Greece.
The AUTHORITY gathered that altogether, 35 missions are to be retained on full capacity, while the rest will be manned by an ambassador plus three diplomats.
It was also learnt that as part of the cost-cutting measures, diplomats’ allowances have been reduced by 20 percent.
Accordingly, the highest ranking Nigerian diplomat abroad will now earn a monthly allowance of $4,000, down from $6,000. Also, no diplomat will live in any accommodation of up to $10,000.
“The rationalisation has become really necessary in view of the cash crunch the country is facing now,” a diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity told The AUTHORITY.
“It costs pretty much to maintain a diplomat. For instance, every diplomat is entitled to maintenance allowances for a wife and four children, whom the government caters for in terms of school fees and other incidental allowances. Where, for example, a diplomat is resident in a non-English speaking country, his children must be registered in an English Language school where tuition fees are usually higher. In the same vein, if he is resident in a developed and, perhaps, costly country, where there is no Nigerian House, he must be housed in a neighbourhood befitting of the status of a Nigerian Ambassador and that can be very expensive,” he said.
Sources in the ministry said diplomats are awaiting the impending changes with trepidation.
The ministry’s Director, Press and Public Affairs, Malam Ahmad Sajoh, could not be reached for comments as his lines were switched off. Other officials were not forthcoming on the matter.