Ambassadors’ recall: Envoys stranded as FG foot-drags on implementation

Written by on October 10, 2023

Five weeks after President Bola Tinubu recalled ambassadors and 21 days before the October 31 deadline for their return, the Federal Government appears to have backtracked on the policy, fuelling speculations that the government may have given them a months extension.

On September 2, President Tinubu recalled all of Nigeria’s ambassadors, both career and non-career envoys. Nigeria has no fewer than 300 foreign missions.

The recall was communicated by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Yusuf Tuggar.
Sequel to inquiries on the letter recalling the Nigerian High Commissioner to the UK, Ambassador Sarafa Ishola, Ambassador Tuggar, clarified that all career and non-career ambassadors had been recalled on the instructions of President Tinubu.

Confirming the move, the Presidency in another statement by its spokesman, Mr Ajuri Ngelale, said: “The President’s directive is sequel to his careful study of the present state of affairs at Nigerian consulate offices and embassies worldwide, and in line with the President’s Renewed Hope agenda, the President is determined to ensure that world-class efficiency and quality, will henceforth, characterize foreign and domestic service delivery to citizens, residents and prospective visitors alike.”

No going back, ministry officials insist

Although sources at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said there was no going back on the recall, there is nothing on ground to facilitate the envoy’s return on or before October 31, an ambassador told Vanguard.

The real reason the government has not set machinery in motion for the October 31 recall of all ambassadors, deputy ambassadors and consuls-general is still hazy.

However, a senior staff of the Foreign Affairs Ministry who craved anonymity, said: “So far, no machinery has been put in motion for return of the envoys.

“Under normal circumstances, each envoy who is expected to return by the end of this month, by now should have received his or her AIEs (Authority to incur Expenditures) for his or her passages.’’

The AIE explains the details of the entitlement of each envoy in terms of their passages and other travel arrangements to return to Nigeria.

According to the official, “it is traditional and very important to have swiftly sent these AIEs to ambassadors and other envoys because you don’t expect an ambassador to wake up one morning and just jump into a flight without advanced booking as well as making arrangements to airfreight his or her belongings home.”

She said the government might have had a change of heart, “if not, by now, they (envoys) would have equally received cash backing.”

Contacted, a serving ambassador told Vanguard: “We are in the dark over the whole issue. I asked some foreign affairs ministry officials, one of them said” “Wwhy don’t you stay there? Why are you in a hurry to return?

‘’They don’t expect you to trek home. Stay put until the government makes up its mind to send you money to come back or extend your stay.’”

The ambassador, a female, who said she would like to come home immediately to be with her family, regretted that she could not do so given the experience of some former ambassadors who returned but waited for over five years before getting their entitlements.

“Some of them advised us to stay put until the government does the needful by sending us AIEs for our passages,” she added.

Another diplomat who pleaded anonymity, said he expected the ministry to be tidying up the arrangement.

Asked if the October 31 date would be met, even as the ministry is yet to conclude the official document, he said: “They (envoys) were given October ending, so they should be preparing by now. That is part of the bureaucracy but that shouldn’t be a problem.

“The ministry has the right to ask the officer to come back but the ministry also has the obligation to pay before they come back.”

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