Ambassadorial Nominees – NNL

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Unlike a few decades ago when foreign policy occupied a pride of place in Nigeria’s affairs, with Africa being the centerpiece of the country’s foreign policy, Nigeria’s interest in this important sphere has been waning over the years. Perhaps nothing epitomises this declining interest in foreign affairs than the non-posting of the 41 non-career ambassadors-designate whose names were sent to the Senate for confirmation, in accordance to section 171(2)(1c) and Subsection 4 of the 1999 Constitution. President Muhammadu Buhari’s letter conveying the request was read out by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, at the start of plenary on July 1.

The Senate, however, confirmed 39 of the non-career ambassadors and stood down the confirmation of the nominees from Niger and Yobe states, to resolve what the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs described as a “mixup”.

The first time such nominations were sent to the upper legislative house for the same purpose by the Muhammadu Buhari administration was in 2016.

Signs that all may not be well with the list submitted emerged, when, on July 8, 2020, President Buhari dropped two of the 41 nominees. His letter to that effect partly said: “In accordance to Section 171(1)(2)(c) and subsection (4) of the 1999 Constitution as amended…The Senate is kindly requested to recall my earlier submission of Mr. Oboro Effiong Akpabio and Brigadier-General Bwala Yusuf Bukar, from Akwa-Ibom and Borno State, respectively, vide letter dated 17th June 2020, I substitute Mr. Oboro Effiong Akpabio with Mr. John J. Usanga (Akwa-Ibom State). I replace Brigadier-General Bwala Yusuf Bukar (Borno State) with Air Commodore Peter Anda Bakiya Gana (Niger State).”

Even as this second letter was being read, the senator representing the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Senator Philip Aduda, raised Order 43 of the Senate Standing Rules, to protest the exclusion of the non-career ambassador from the FCT. According to him, the one from the territory, Ambassador Hafiz Obada, was neither reappointed nor replaced as obtained in other states. Yet, the FCT was entitled to one because it is supposed to be treated as a state, in line with constitutional provisions.

Be that as it may, it is astonishing that the ambassadors-designate are yet to be posted to their respective countries, about four months after. Interestingly, some of them had resigned from their previous jobs immediately they were named as non-career ambassadors. They have remained jobless since. That is at the personal level.

Perhaps more fundamental is the national embarrassment such tardiness might have caused the country.

Characteristic of the Buhari administration, mum has been the word. It has been business as usual as if there is nothing wrong or unusual in having appointees whose tenure would almost lapse before they assume duties. But for the fact that this is not the first time the government would be acting as if it had all the time in the world, we might have excused its action as one-off. But we have not forgotten that it took the government more than six months to name its cabinet after winning elections in 2015, despite the fact that the president’s predecessor conceded defeat even before the result of the presidential election was officially announced.

We deplore this lackadaisical approach to governance. This is especially so when the embarrassment transcends our borders. The world must be watching with astonishment how any serious country could have named ambassadors-designate who would still be expecting their letters of posting, more than three months after their confirmation by the Senate.

Nothing can justify this. Even if it was due to paucity of fund, as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, lamented when he appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs to defend the 2021 budget estimates of his ministry said, the government should have envisaged this before making the long list public and probably pruned it to suit its purse, instead of getting stuck after naming the nominees.

We urge the Federal Government to do the rightful, however, instead of hanging the fate of the country and that of the affected individuals in limbo longer than necessary. Even if the government had made a mistake, it should quickly rectify it and let the country move on.

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