The Federal government has over the years been unable to meet its financial obligations to the various International organizations of which Nigeria is a member. This is in addition to the accumulated recurrent debts incurred by all the 119 foreign missions across the world.
The minister of State for Foreign Affairs and the supervising minister of the Ministry, Professor Viola Adaku Onwuliri made the revelation while briefing the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs during the 2014 budget defense.
The minister who told the Committee of the embarrassment the situation has caused the nation pointed out that the country has always defaulted in the payment of diplomatic levies to all the diplomatic bodies Nigerian belongs to as a member country.
The minister said this in response to a question asked by the Chairperson of the Committee, Hon. Nnenna Elendu Ukeje from Bende Federal Constituency of Abia State concerning the recurrent debt profile of the Ministry which stood at over 13 billon Naira. Hon. Ukeje who during her opening address told the gathering that the envelope system of budgeting is one which does not favour the Foreign Affairs Ministry enquired if the country has debt concerns with her diplomatic levies. An answer the minister gave to the affirmative.
“Although, the diplomatic debts are under the schedule of the Ministry, the payment of diplomatic levies is solely handled by the Ministry of Finance”, she said.
Reacting to this, Hon. Umoru Baggo from Niger state stressed the fact that the Ministry has not done anything proactive in collaboration with the Finance minister to check the accumulation of these debts.
“You people in the Ministry have not been proactive enough to pay up these debts. The only time you think about them is when the President is either going to the UN (United Nations) or to the AU (African Union) before you will start running helter-skelter looking for how to pay some sort of arrears or the other which portrays lack of seriousness on our part as a country”, he submitted.
On the issue of gross under funding of the foreign Missions and the need to increase funding or streamline them, members urged the Ministry to make efforts at bringing Heads of Missions to come and defend their budget subsequently since implementation of missions’ capital and recurrent expenditure has never gone beyond 40% while that of the Headquarters is always 100%.
In expressing his dissatisfaction with the situation Hon. Samuel Adejare from Lagos in a rather emotional outburst told the minister and her team to either up the level of funding to some of the missions in Africa or close them down permanently.
Earlier, the minister in her presentation told the Committee that out of the N13.3billion approved by the President and appropriated for payment in 2012 which constituted part of the Headquarters’ 2013 capital budget, only N10.4 billion representing 80% of the appropriation was released; leaving the balance of N2.5 billion unreleased as at 31st December, 2013.
On the 2014 appropriation, the minister told the Committee that a total of N46.595 billion covering all five Agencies under the Ministry as well as the 119 (one hundred and nineteen) foreign Missions with regards to their capital, personnel and overhead costs. In breaking it down further, she said there is a
sharp reduction in the Ministry’s (Headquarters and Agencies) overhead budget proposals which stands at N5.3 billion as against the 2013 approved budget of N6.4 billion which the minister insisted was grossly inadequate to meet the key activities of the Ministry in 2014.