Peculiar mess – The Nation

  • Reviewing the list of international organisations to which Nigeria is committed is timely

Necessity is said to be the mother of invention. This is the plausible reason for the Federal Government’s decision to scale down the number of international organisations to which Nigeria is obligated to pay annual subscriptions and other occasional fees. As the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, announced last week, the Federal Executive Council has approved a withdrawal from 90 of the organisations from which it is believed we do not draw much benefit. She equally disclosed that Nigeria is a member of 310 such organisations.

We support the move. It is the duty of government to periodically review its financial standing and core interest, ensuring that the foreign policy accords with them. It is indeed a scandal that we were committed to such obligations that we have been unable to meet for years. According to the minister, such commitments amount to about $70 million yearly “and we owe lots and lots of arrears.”

It is also scandalous that the relevant agencies of government could not agree on how much exactly is owed the international organisations as the outstanding commitments are not limited to subscriptions, but donations and pledges that were neither backed by cash nor the reality of the economic situation. This is sheer recklessness and indiscipline that must immediately stop.

We call on the government to do a cost-benefit analysis of all the international organisations before deciding those to sever relationship with; otherwise we may hurt the national interest. Besides, the decision should not be left to the Federal Executive Council only. It would be profitable to make public the list of the organisations for input from the critical mass.

This is also a time when the National Assembly should step up their legislative activism in the public interest. It would be interesting to see the Foreign Affairs Committees of both houses of the National Assembly take up the responsibility of interfacing with the executive before the final report is presented and action taken. As representatives of Nigerians, the lawmakers should invite interest groups, serving and retired diplomats and international relations experts to a session on the matter after obtaining the full list of the organisations.

We are convinced that the 220 left may still make so huge demand on the national purse than we can bear. The era of a few officials deciding what organisations Nigeria should be committed to is over. It is important that such decisions are well thought-out, thoroughly debated and evaluated before decisions are taken.

This is an auspicious opportunity to review the number of Nigeria’s missions abroad. Many of our envoys suffer from inability to fund the high commissions and embassies. Many have not received subventions for years, yet they are kept ostensibly to render consular and other services to Nigerians abroad and intending visitors. It is therefore no surprise that the missions are inefficient and ineffective. A review towards merger would serve to fund the important ones sufficiently and ensure that they work in the public interest. Nigerians abroad have been embarrassed by the utter lack of interest by their embassies and diplomats in their affairs. Many have gone to jail for issues that could have been settled had the missions taken interest earlier.

It is now a fad for leaders at the federal and state levels to travel in search of the elusive foreign investors, yet the least that could be done to promote the country by the missions, the first port of call by those interested in trading with or investing in the country, has been left undone. In an era when we want to deemphasise our dependence on oil, promote exports and derive much from taxation, the foreign missions have to be put in good shape. It is no use paying lip service to ease of doing business when our foreign missions remain in horrible shape.

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