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FG delays Nigerian embassies’ funds

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By Mercy Kelani

Missions might find it difficult to meet their financial obligations.

Reports has it that Nigerian foreign missions are challenged by a financial crisis, as a result of the delayed release of their capital and overhead votes by the Federal Government. It was disclosed that the overhead vote for the second half of this year, 2023, which ought to have been paid since the 6th month of the year (June), is yet to be paid. This pending payment had put the missions in distress. Diplomats and Foreign Service officers at the 109 Diplomatic Missions across the world are worried about the implications of this act on missions and the well-being of staff.

It was revealed that it might be difficult for many missions to meet their financial obligations to their local contractors and staff members in subsequent weeks, if solutions are proffered to the situation. Financial obligations like electricity, sanitation bills, and water are already accumulating. Concerned embassy staff members in Asia, Europe and other parts of the world were reported to have been sending distress messages to their colleagues in Abuja, Nigeria. There are reports of poor allocation to the missions and complaints about budgetary votes.

This situation might make it difficult for many embassies to pay salaries.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not provide reasons for the shortfall, but there were hints that the remittance by the government was based on the current exchange rate of N900 per dollar. An official stated that truly, Nigerian Missions lack proper funding, but the gross inadequate fund that was allocated in the 2023 Budget has been affected by the recent exchange rate policy of floating the naira implemented by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

A diplomat revealed that missions that were allocated $590,000 and $383,000 for personnel during the first half of the year received $353,000 and $252,000, respectively, for the second half of 2023. This situation might make it difficult for many embassies to be able to pay the salaries and entitlements of officers, contractors, and locally recruited staff members. It might also be difficult to meet other financial obligations, which include rent, electricity, telephone, water, and security bills without the overhead and capital allocations.

Diplomats have to borrow money to pay for their children’s tuition.

According to a Foreign Service officer, this situation has made many staff to face eviction from their landlords. He stated that the overhead vote was also supposed to cover the accommodation rent of staff and the school fees of their children, but the failure of the federal government to release the money has made this impossible. In many cases, diplomats have to borrow money to pay for their children’s tuition and their house rent to avoid eviction. In some cases, staff pay for their accommodation with their salaries to avoid embarrassment from their landlords.

He added that some buildings are still in deteriorated conditions due to inadequate funding by the Nigerian government. It was also disclosed that the government has refused to pay relocation allowance to officials that have received new postings to foreign missions from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs headquarters. The Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in the 9th Assembly, in November 2020, decried the maltreatment of Nigerians in the diaspora. But Geoffrey Onyeama, the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, faulted poor funding of foreign missions.

Some diplomats and officials were usually owed salaries.

Speaking on the issue, Mr. Rashid Akinkuolie, a retired diplomat, urged the government to adopt denomination of the budgetary allocation of the missions in dollars. He added that a number of diplomats and officials were usually owed salaries and other financial entitlements, saying the issue is perennial and not just a recent happening. He said that the problem is that their vote is paid in naira and is then converted to dollars, pounds, euros, and other foreign currencies, which results in depreciation. The retired diplomat said that staff payments should be in foreign currency.

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