Former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio, has said that Nigeria’s visa remains one of the most difficult to procure in all her missions around the world, a development which he said, could hamper relationships with foreign business men.
According to him, this is as a result of the hardships experienced by Nigeria’s foreign officers at missions where they are posted due to the delay or outright failure by the Federal Government to release their allowances.
Consequently, the foreign officers take out their pains on the public-Nigerians who require consular services, or foreigners who seek visa to visit Nigeria, he explained.
Akpabio, who is the Minority Leader in the Senate, made these known while contributing to a motion on the urgent need for the Federal Government to fund Nigerian Missions abroad.
“I visited several of our embassies as a governor, and the stories are the same. The foreign officers are not paid; some have had their children dropped out of school because Nigeria has not sent money. So they take it out on the public, it is a natural reaction”.
Speaking on the issue, Senator Tayo Alasoadura (Ondo Central) narrated his experience while on the delegation of the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Agency to a conference in Vienna, Austria.
“We were told that Nigeria has not paid her dues for the last five years, I almost ran away,” he said, adding that it was also disclosed that the delegation was at the conference because of the contribution of other member countries.
“We should also look at our commitments not just to foreign missions, but to foreign organisations,” he said.
Sponsor of the motion, Senator Tijjani Kaura (Zamfara North), said Nigeria’s image is being diminished by the status of her missions abroad.
According to him,
“Note that Nigerian diplomatic missions are facing several challenges, including their inability to pay home-based officers allowances, local staff salaries, rent for residences, chanceries and other staff official quarters, in addition to the dire lack of funds for other sundry expenses such as visits to Nigerians in jail and provision for other consular services.
“Regrets that there are threats by host countries to revoke building permits of some properties abroad belonging to Nigerian Missions, following their poor structural conditions, which constitute hazard to the communities where such buildings are situated, and lack of routine maintenance that will bring such structures in line with the building codes of host countries.
“Further regrets that the ministry’s budget envelope is grossly inadequate to meet its expenditure requirements even at headquarters, and with this situational analysis, the ministry’s approved 2017 budget would hardly provide the needed impetus required of the ministry to achieve Nigeria’s foreign policy goal and objectives in pursuance of our national interest.”
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, also pointed out that there are inherent dangers to delaying payment of allowances to the foreign officers. They could be induced to sell state secrets, he warned.
The Senate, nevertheless, reached a decision to constitute an ad hoc committee to meet with the officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, envoys of the most affected missions and other stakeholders on how to resolve the issues.