The Federal Government has approved the closure of nine foreign missions and their conversion to non-residency representation or concurrent accreditation, as part of measures to reduce the cost of running Nigeria’s foreign representations in the face of economic realities.
It also reduced the number of officers at foreign missions, stopped posting staff of home ministries to foreign missions and approved the training of Foreign Service officers to carry out multiple tasks, including administration, immigration, trade, culture and education related functions.
The Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina said President Buhari stated this while declaring open an induction course organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Nigerian Career Ambassadors-designate who were recently cleared by the Senate.
According to President Buhari: “We are optimistic that the external factors that partly contributed to push our economy into recession will ebb in 2017. Until then, I regret that the resources available to fund our missions abroad will not be as robust as we would like.
“We are working hard to turn around our national economy by effectively reforming our macroeconomic environment through measures, some of which were outlined in my budget speech to the National Assembly last week.”
The president, who said the prevailing economic circumstances have led to a restructuring of Nigerian missions abroad, reminded the Ambassadors-designate that, “as we are all making great sacrifices at home, we also expect you to similarly make judicious use of the resources put at the disposal of your missions. As Heads of missions, you will be held accountable for the utilisation of all resources under your control. These are lean times, and all of us are expected to do more with less.”
He specifically charged the Ambassadors-designate to change the narrative of Nigeria outside the country by playing up the positive values and outstanding contributions of Nigerians in the global arena.
“For far too long, we have allowed Nigeria to be defined by others, always emphasising our negatives. To the average foreigner, Nigeria evokes 419, terrorism, militancy, communal and religious clashes, insecurity, corruption and all our other faults.
“You have the duty to correct this narrative by taking the initiative to define and portray our country for what it truly is. We are a nation of 180 million vibrant, enterprising, hardworking, hospitable and peaceful people. We are a remarkable nation that has succeeded in harnessing our multiple diversities as strengths such that we are the leading country on the continent. Therefore, you will need to mobilise, sensitise and motivate all your staff so that together you engage with your host governments, the private sector and other segments of the society to explain that Nigeria is much more than the negative image portrayed to them.”
The President further urged them to leverage on the achievements of Nigerians within the country and in diaspora.
“Think of people like Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, Chinedu Echeruo who founded Hotspot application which he sold to Apple for over a billion dollars; think of Bayo Ogunlesi, who runs over a billion dollar infrastructure fund and is now Adviser to US President-elect; and Jelani Aliyu, an accomplished car designer at General Motors. Indeed, these and other hardworking Nigerian professionals in the diaspora have never forgotten their roots and have been making significant contributions to their communities back home, and even to our economy through their huge remittances.”
Buhari further urged them to sustain the work ethic characterized by the love of country, professionalism, excellence, integrity and honour associated with the “Nigerian diplomatic tradition established in 1957 by the pioneers of the Nigerian Foreign Service, sometimes referred to as the “12 Apostles” and also “bequeath same to succeeding generations. ”
President Buhari also charged the Ambassadors-designate to stress Nigeria’s commitment to international peace and security through contributions “to nearly every UN peacekeeping initiative since 1960 when we achieved our independence.
In addition, we are the stabilizers and shock absorbers of West Africa, having helped to contain potentially de-stabilising developments in the sub-region.”
Buhari further charged the Ambassadors–designate always to be mindful of the national priorities that “revolve around the economy, security, anti-corruption, good governance, agricultural transformation and infrastructure development, including rail, roads and power” and use their roles “as Principal Representatives to build meaningful partnerships to attract foreign investments, new skills and technologies.
“As Nigerian Ambassadors, you must show leadership, fairness and justice to all. Discipline, probity, accountability and zero tolerance for corruption must be your watchwords. You are expected to project the best image and traditions of our country in your conduct and all you do.”
The president, however, expressed optimism that the current economic recession will fade next year.