The House of Representatives has directed the Ministries of Foreign Affairs to comply with section 11 of the 2022 appropriation Act which permits Nigeria’s embassies to spend their capital votes in order to speed up foreign operations without seeking the approval of the Ministry.
The directive was issued by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila yesterday while meeting with Geoffrey Onyeama, the minister of Foreign Affairs.
The speaker asked the minister to withdraw its directive to Nigerian embassies to disregard the 2022 Appropriation Act as compliance with the law was not negotiable until a possible amendment was passed by the National Assembly
What the speaker told the minister
Gbajabiamila said the house had discovered that the ministry of foreign affairs issued letters to the embassies instructing them not to spend any money not approved by the ministry.
The speaker who described the directive as illegal and unconstitutional, said before the National Assembly inserted the clause into the Act, the tradition was that embassies would not spend a dime until they got the approval of the ministry.
He directed the Ministry to withdraw the said letter directing embassies not to obey the Act as it contravenes section 11 of the 2022 Appropriation Act.
“To hear that a ministry is issuing a directive to foreign embassies to disregard a law that has been made by the National Assembly, that is not acceptable. If you are not comfortable with the law, there is a process. If you are not satisfied with the law that has been made, let the executive present an amendment. First of all, withdraw that unconstitutional letter,” Gbajabiamila said.
The speaker insisted that it was in the interest of the image of Nigeria and the ministry to allow the embassies to spend their votes to reverse the state of dilapidation of the country’s foreign missions. He said inadequate funding is responsible for the inefficiency witnessed at the Nigerian embassies in various countries.
The speaker noted that it was painful that some embassy buildings had not been renovated for years, while some ambassadors could only make do with cars that broke down often.
“So, we made this law and inserted a clause to remove the bureautic red-tapism that makes funding not to get to these people.” “There is no point appropriating money and the money is not reaching the embassies.
“When an ambassador does not have a car or his car is 15 years old, it breaks down every single day on the road. It has even broken down with me in it, before. And they have to roll up the Nigerian flag to avoid embarrassment. You go into an embassy, the toilets there are not working, you ask them why; they say there is no money,” he said.
Mr Oyeoma in response said the ministry was happy to honour the invitation to the meeting because it believes they both work for the common interest of Nigerians.
The minister stated that the ministry would cooperate with the House by supporting any interventions that would improve the operations of foreign missions, especially on how to address the general underfunding of the embassies.
What you should know
Section 11 of the 2022 Appropriations Act provides that “Notwithstanding the provision of any other law in force, Nigerian embassies are authorised to expend funds allocated to them under the capital component without having to seek the approval of the ministry of foreign affairs”.