The National Assembly through its joint Committees on Foreign Affairs has kicked against the continued underfunding of the Foreign Affairs Ministry by the federal government of Nigeria.
The committee in particular decried the yearly underfunding of foreign missions stating, “The sad story must stop.”
Lamenting the situation during this year’s budget defence session of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Chairman of the joint committee, Senator Muhammad Bulkachuwa (APC Bauchi North), said foreign affairs as a ministry is very critical to the image of the country abroad.
“The situation where our diplomats have issues like non-payment of Foreign Service Officers’ allowances, absence of insurance to cover them and their families, non-payment of rent for the affected officers, challenges of non-profit functional missions owing to inability of the missions to pay for utility services or maintenance of the buildings, both Residence and Chancery and of course, the staff Quarters cannot continue.
“This sad story has been on-going for a very long time. We on this side of the divide have travelled far and near, in our private and official capacity.
The drop in the budgetary proposal for the Ministry in 2020 when compared to its 2019 Appropriation further angered the committee members, the zero capital vote component of the budget.
While in 2019, the sum of N73.623 billion was appropriated for the Ministry, the sum of N73.156 billion is proposed for it in the 2020 fiscal year, indicating a shortfall of N467.134 million.
“The 2020 Appropriation bill gave no capital provision for over seventy (70) Missions, despite the enormous challenges faced by almost all the missions.
“This joint committee on foreign affairs will explore the possibility of ensuring required improvement on the provision of the allocation to the Ministry, Agencies and Missions,” he stressed.
Earlier, officials of the ministry led by the Minister Geoffrey Onyeama, in their submissions before the joint committee, lamented over paucity of funds to run most of the foreign missions.