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Government & Politics

Federal Government to Close Embassies, Downgrade Missions

Kemi Adeosun
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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.

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