Hon Yakub says MFA remains window, mirror through which global community sees Nigeria but no mark departure received from Nigerians across the world

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By Joy Odor

The Chairman, House Committee On Foreign Affairs, Hon  Yusuf Buba Yakub has described the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) as the window and mirror through which the global community sees Nigeria as country, saying the truth remains that there has not been any marked departure from the poor value that Nigerians have continued to receive across the world.

Hon Yakub noted that Nigeria, as a nation, remains the weeping child of the world, buffeted on all sides and while nationals still suffer the very poor fate of carrying the green passport that much part of the world hates to see.

The Hon. Yusuf Buba Yakub made this known during the budget defence of the MDA under his committee supervision on Tuesday.

According to him, the Ministry needs more than just the efforts of those directly saddled with handling its affairs to make any desired impacts.

“The problem may not be about you directly but there is in the face of yearly allocations and concomitant spendings, a lacklustre performance in all areas where different indices are seen as parameters for scoring.

“We feel concerned and worried as a nation that we cannot get our international image to fit into the acceptable module of the international community.

“We feel concerned that we do not hear of any programmes from the Ministry targeted at changing these narratives. All we continue to witness daily from Ghana to Gabon, South Africa to Libya is that Nigerians remain at the receiving end of, most times, state-supported violence and all forms of ill-treatment in foreign jurisdictions, including Europe, the Americas and Asia.

“Today, as we gather to deliberate upon the figures that will determine the outcome of your efforts for the fiscal year 2021, it is only appropriate for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under your able leadership and our kind partnership to look back at the dying year to assess how we have fared, especially amidst the challenges we confronted with what was allocated to us for the year 2020.

“An honest self-assessment, Hon. Ministers, very distinguished colleagues, will offer us the opportunity to see what we can do better in the year ahead. For me, there is no gainsaying the fact that the Foreign Affairs Ministry the way it appears and operates today is hardly the contemplation of its founding fathers.

“And in the past few weeks since we have had the opportunity for interaction between the Ministry and us, parliamentarians, we have not hidden our disdain for the level of decay in the system and have also professed the hope that things can get better if we all choose to cooperate to re-enact and re-vitalise the ideals of the founding fathers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

‘For instance, we are not happy at the things we saw when we undertook our oversight visit to the headquarters. We must appreciate the concern of Mr. President for approving and making releases of over USD18 Million, over 1 Million Pounds and over N5 Billion to clear off all the existing liabilities in our Foreign Missions and give a new face to the headquarters in order to start ahead on a clean slate.

“This is all part of a wider reform approved by Mr. President. Yet, all we hear and see is that some are not comfortable with the reforms and, in fact,are resistant to the reforms. Let us , therefore, warn that we do not want to see business as usual in the coming year.

“I welcome the Honourable Ministers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Permanent Secretary, the entire management and staff of the Ministry and salute you all as the veritable gate- keepers and purveyors of our foreign policy goals and ideals.

“For me, there is no gainsaying the fact that the Foreign Affairs Ministry the way it appears and operates today is hardly the contemplation of its founding fathers.

“And in the past few weeks since we have had the opportunity for interaction between the Ministry and us, parliamentarians, we have not hidden our disdain for the level of decay in the system and have also professed the hope that things can get better if we all choose to cooperate to re-enact and re-vitalise the ideals of the founding fathers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

He lamented on the level of infrastructural decay at Ministry of Foreign Affairs and some agencies under its supervision.

Similarly, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama during the budget defence of his ministry said there is no functional ICT unit at the ministry of Foreign Affairs.

According to him, even the age long medium of communication, intranet is not available in the ministry.

He said the members of the staff cannot even communicate within themselves using intranet.

Read the the speech of Hon. Yusuf Buba Yakub below:

PROTOCOLS

Every end of the year, the Legislature mobilises itself to carry out one of the fundamental duties entrusted on us by the electorate and the Constitution.

Contrary to perceptions in certain quarters, the Annual Budget Defence process is not just a yearly ritual, but a serious mandate given to us, Parliamentarians, by the good people of this country ,whose interests we represent, in the well- calculated bid to hold in check the commonwealth of this nation and to ensure proper utilisation of all funds and resources allocated to various Sub- heads in Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government.

This is the reason we have gathered here today. This kind of sessions provides us the opportunity to meet with these MDAs to pore through the budget proposals of the coming year.

This year’s exercise, coming at a time that even our nation’s youth are beginning to interrogate governance and question all that are deployed into the security and general well-being of the people, calls for the total commitment of all of us on both the side of lawmakers and on the side of the operators of these budget estimates.
I, therefore, welcome our Honourable colleagues who in the past few weeks have been saddled with the arduous task of ensuring that the hope of the Executive, particularly that of Mr President, who believes that the January-December target for our budget circle is best for our system, is achieved. I thank you for, once more, rising to this clarion call to duty to carry out this important mandate and duty of the legislator. I urge you, Honourable colleagues, to give today’s task your best shot, knowing full well that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, alongside its Missions abroad, remains the window and mirror through which the global community sees our country, Nigeria,and that the Ministry as it is today needs more than just the efforts of those directly saddled with handling its affairs to make any desired impacts.
I welcome the Honourable Ministers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Permanent Secretary, the entire management and staff of the Ministry and salute you all as the veritable gate- keepers and purveyors of our foreign policy goals and ideals. Much as you have on your own done your bit to offer your services where you have found yourselves these past years since overseeing the Ministry,the truth remains that there has not been any marked departure from the poor value that Nigerians have continued to receive across the world. Nigeria, as a nation, remains the weeping child of the world; we are buffeted on all sides and our nationals still suffer the very poor fate of carrying the green passport that much part of the world hates to see. The problem may not be about you directly,but there is,in the face of yearly allocations and concomitant spendings,a lacklustre performance in all areas where different indices are seen as parameters for scoring. We feel concerned and worried as a nation that we cannot get our international image to fit into the acceptable module of the international community. We feel concerned that we do not hear of any programmes from the Ministry targeted at changing these narratives. All we continue to witness daily from Ghana to Gabon, South Africa to Libya is that Nigerians remain at the receiving end of, most times, state-supported violence and all forms of ill-treatment in foreign jurisdictions, including Europe, the Americas and Asia.
Today, as we gather to deliberate upon the figures that will determine the outcome of your efforts for the fiscal year 2021, it is only appropriate for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under your able leadership and our kind partnership to look back at the dying year to assess how we have fared, especially amidst the challenges we confronted with what was allocated to us for the year 2020. An honest self-assessment, Hon. Ministers, very distinguished colleagues, will offer us the opportunity to see what we can do better in the year ahead. For me, there is no gainsaying the fact that the Foreign Affairs Ministry the way it appears and operates today is hardly the contemplation of its founding fathers. And in the past few weeks since we have had the opportunity for interaction between the Ministry and us, parliamentarians, we have not hidden our disdain for the level of decay in the system and have also professed the hope that things can get better if we all choose to cooperate to re-enact and re-vitalise the ideals of the founding fathers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
For instance,we are not happy at the things we saw when we undertook our oversight visit to the headquarters.We must appreciate the concern of Mr. President for approving and making releases of over USD18 Million,over 1 Million Pounds and over N5 Billion to clear off all the existing liabilities in our Foreign Missions and give a new face to the headquarters in order to start ahead on a clean slate. This is all part of a wider reform approved by Mr. President. Yet,all we hear and see is that some are not comfortable with the reforms and,in fact,are resistant to the reforms. Let us , therefore,warn that we do not want to see business as usual in the coming year. As a Committee,we emphasise that the oversight function of the Ministry will be strengthened in the coming year in order to ensure that the purpose for which every penny is earmarked is achieved. Any group or individual, therefore,that thinks they should tinker with any parts of the reforms,to us,must be making a huge joke of what Mr. President has approved. We must appreciate his good intentions. And as a Parliament,we will stand and ensure that the Missions are cleaned up to ,at least,represent our country’ s image outside the shores of this nation. Our concern is that no single individual or group should be given the opportunity to feel that they are greater than this country.
In the last few years since we took over this Committee of the House, I have had the opportunity to undertake visits to some of our Missions abroad. In spite of what is ,usually, allocated to these Missions, it is worrying that what we have as Embassies and High Commissions are places whose activities are from what the nation requires of such places. In principle, every Nigerian Embassy should be a mini-Nigeria; a place where information on our country, our economy and our nationals in such a country should be on the fingertips of those who manage such Embassies or High Commissions’ Economic, Information and Cultural Desks. That is the standard practice everywhere you go in other countries, but again, sadly for us, our Foreign Missions have not seen this to be worth the attention. In the neighbouring Ghana here,for instance, where there have been constant altercations with Nigerian traders, during the visit with the Rt. Hon. Speaker Gbajabiamila I was taken aback at the level of disconnect between Nigerians and the High Commission. The High Commission neither has the record of the number of Nigerians in Ghana nor any such necessary data. This is not right and this Committee expects to see a change in the new year.
Distinguished Members, Honourable Ministers, ladies and gentlemen, it is my honest belief and conviction that this year’s budget should be a game-changer in the activities and programmes of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The reason for the above is not farfetched. At a time that this budget defence has been preceded by the many interactions that the Committee and the Ministry have had in recent weeks, and coupled with the approval of Mr President of reforms that are aimed at moving the Ministry and the Foreign Missions forward, one expects nothing less than a huge success in the activities and programmes of the Ministry in 2021. Let me, therefore, on a special note convey the appreciation of this Committee to His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, for his uncommon magnanimity at approving a set of reforms in the Foreign Affairs Ministry and backing that action with the necessary finances. Our candid expectation from the Ministry is to ensure a wholesome actualisation of Mr President’s kind directive and action.
I cannot end this address without making some copious observations in your budget proposals. But, as our traditions as lawmakers demand, Honourable colleagues, I believe we will have the opportunity to do justice to your findings when the line-by-line consideration of what we have before us comes up. While we may have pointed out some gross disparities between expenditures and work actually done in the 2020 budget during our oversight visit to the Ministry’s headquarters, our intentions are that,iin line with the vision of the Buhari Administration, assist ourselves and our nation to ensure that every kobo in the budget estimates is judiciously applied in order to achieve the highest intended benefits and utility for our people.
Once again, Honourable colleagues, Ministers, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I thank you all for coming and invite you to make the best of this session.
Hon. Yusuf Buba Yakub
Chairman, House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

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