Apparently disturbed with the staggering N34million it takes Nigeria to maintain 119 foreign missions. President Muhammadu Buhari hinted on Tuesday that his administration was undertaking a review of the foreign missions to determine those that are really essential.
He also demanded the record of former government officials and other persons still using diplomatic and official passports illegally, vowing to deal with them.
Buhari gave this directive when the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Bulus Lolo, led officials of the ministry to brief him in Aso Rock.
“Something has to be done so that we can get back our respectability as a country. Some people carry official passports and get involved in all sorts of negative acts. We need to do something about it,” he declared.
On foreign missions, the president noted that a Presidential Committee would soon be established to carry out a review of them in order to determine those that are really critical.
According to him, the review will determine the number of essential missions Nigeria needed to maintain abroad so that appropriate standards and quality could be maintained.
The president said there was no point in Nigeria operating missions all over the world “with dilapidated facilities and demoralized staff” when the need for some of the missions was questionable.
“Let’s keep only what we can manage. We can’t afford much for now. There’s no point in pretending,” he stated.
Calling for the record of former government officials and other persons still using diplomatic and official passports illegally, Buhari said his administration will take necessary action against them.
Earlier, Ambassador Lolo had informed President Buhari that the challenges facing the foreign affairs ministry included the absence of a Foreign Service commission, poor funding of foreign missions, policy inconsistencies and training deficiencies, among others.
Addressing journalists after the meeting, Lolo said, “Mr. President asked the ministry to be realistic in terms of our representation abroad. We have 119 Missions.
“He asked the questions whether we needed to have that number or we can rationalise 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 and whether or not the number should remain the same or we do something about those numbers.”
On the likely diplomatic consequences of such an action, he noted that it was a matter of the country’s interest and the resources available.
He added that no time frame was given for the completion of the committee’s assignment, stating, however, that the soon the job was done, the better.
“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”, he said.
Lolo further observed that the objective principles of the country’s foreign policy were still relevant and sound, adding however that what needed to be changed are the peculiarities that any administration brings to bear on governance as its overriding priorities.
He said a review of the nation’s foreign policy might be necessary in order to align it with the policy thrust of the Buhari administration on security, economy and fight against corruption.
“The last comprehensive report was done in 1986; next year, it will be 30 years and I believe that even in the life of a child, you look back and ask, are you going in the right direction?
FG Plans Concessionary Funding For SMEs
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo announced yesterday that the federal government was planning to make available concessionary funding initiatives to assist micro, small and medium scale enterprises to help them overcome the problem of non-access to low cost financing.
He said government was determined to engage more with small and medium scale entrepreneurs (SMEs) in Nigeria towards ensuring sustainable economic development and wealth creation in the country.
“SMEs are grossly under-served in terms of low cost financing. There are several reasons why this may be so. These include how to deal with the sheer scale of numbers of SMEs that need to access concessionary funds in order to make an appreciable impact”, Osinbajo stated.
The vice president spoke in Abuja at a SME financing conference convened by the Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce, Kaduna State Chapter, and the Economic Affairs Section of the United States Embassy, with the theme, ’Bridging the Nigerian SME Funding Gap.’
He gave the assurance that by working through cooperatives and trade organizations, credit facilities can reach large numbers of people.
Osinbajo said the importance of financing SMEs had never been lost on government, save for lack of access to affordable loans.
He noted that several deliberate and sustained financial initiatives had been put in place by the Central Bank of Nigeria except that SMEs still remain grossly underserved.
He listed cooperatives, market women, trade groups, artisans and start-up companies as veritable partners who are being engaged towards the creation of wealth with overall goal of boosting job creation and ultimately economic growth and development.
Earlier, the US Assistant Secretary of State, Economic and Business Affairs, Ambassador Charles Rivkin had said whenever it was good for SMEs in any country, it was good for everybody.
According to him, with the huge population potential of Nigeria, SMEs would be the key driver of the economy if adequate and easy-to-access funds are allocated to the sector.
Niger State governor, Abubakar Bello, who was at the event, described the conference as timely as it had inherent possibilities of building capacity for SMEs as well as the private sector towards improving accessibility to low-interest funding for the sector.