President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to review the number of Nigeria’s foreign missions abroad.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Ambassador Paul Lolo, stated this in an interview with State House correspondents on Tuesday in Abuja after a meeting with the President on the ministry’s activities.
He stated that Nigeria must review the number of its present 119 missions abroad based on the present economic reality.
The permanent secretary said that a committee would be set up to review Nigeria’s representations abroad.
Lolo said, “We also talked about the state of our embassies abroad. All of these in the context of what Nigeria aspires to be at home, in the sub-region, on the continent and around the globe.
“Mr. President asked the Ministry to be realistic in terms of our representation abroad. We have 119 missions. He asked the questions on whether we need to have that number or we rationalised based on our capacity. Right now, the economy is looking down. We are trying to revive and revamp.
“The specific directive that he has given is that a committee be formed to look at the whole issue of our representation abroad, the size and the number of missions on whether or not the number should remain the same or we do something about those numbers.
According to him, the review will be done as soon as possible, adding that no specific time frame was given.
Asked to speak on the effect of cutting down missions abroad, he said, “It is a function of interest and capacity. I believe what the President was saying to us is that we should cut our coat according to our material and not according to our size.”
Lolo said that Buhari underlined the importance of the activities of the ministry, which, he said, was 75 per cent outside the country and 25 per cent domestic.
Even though the ministry does 25 per cent of its work at home, he said that foreign policy derived from domestic policy.
He said, “There is a close nexus between the country’s domestic and foreign policies. Our activities are handled by our missions abroad because the ministry’s functions cover relations of country’s formulations and management of Nigeria’s foreign policy, getting and managing relations with other countries and all of these now crystallise into what opportunities there are and the challenges.”
He said that the ministry would place emphasis on the priorities of the present administration including security, the economy and the fight against corruption.
He said, “The fundamentals of our foreign policy as defined by the objectives of principles are not only sound but relevant. What changes is the nuance that governments and regimes bring from time to time. I took him through the themes of different regimes and evolution of the Nigerian government policy starting with 1975 when the slogan was ‘Africa has come of age.’ When President Buhari was in power between 1983 and 1985 he came up with the concentric circle concept.
“General Ibrahim Babangida as President from 1985 until he stepped aside came with two things: Concept of medium powers as well as economic diplomacy. Then under the late Umaru Yar’Adua, we dealt with citizen diplomacy and the last regime came with transformation agenda.
“We are now looking at them and crystallizing the priority of the present administration that has articulated security, the economy and the fight against corruption.
“All of these will be important to our ministry and the mission abroad to take outside and explain to the rest of the world,” he added.