President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to come up with a comprehensive plan that will lead to the trimming of existing foreign missions.
Nigeria currently has 119 foreign missions abroad.
With a total of 119 foreign missions across the world, Nigeria, according to the 2015 budget will spend about N34billion of its N48billion annual budget, on foreign missions, cutting across personnel, overhead, recurrent and capital costs.
In 2013, N44billion from its N62billion annual budget was to be spent in maintaining foreign missions.
Receiving briefing from officials of the Foreign Affairs ministry led by the Permanent Secretary, Paul Bulus Lolo, on Tuesday, President Muhammadu Buhari directed that the list of missions be reviewed for possible trimming, based on capacity.
“President asked the Ministry to be realistic in terms of our representation abroad. We have 119 Missions. He asked the questions 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. It is a matter of time” he said.
The President specifically directed that a committee be formed to look at the whole issue of foreign representation “the size and the number of missions on whether or not the number should remain the same or we do something about those numbers” Lolo told journalists at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The committee is expected to commence work on the list and revert to the President for further actions that need to be taken.
He explained that the decision was borne out of the need to cut government in the face of ongoing financial challenges, due to the fall of oil prices.
Nigeria is one of the largest crude oil producing nations and 90 percent of its foreign exchange earnings are generated from crude oil sales. With falling oil prices, the current Buhari led administration has said it is set to cut cost of running government as well as block leakages.
Buhari has also cut travel costs incurred from large Presidential delegations, reducing slots from each department at the State House.
The President’s directive to downsize foreign mission, is a function of interest and capacity, Lolo said adding that “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”.
However, President Buhari had while speaking in Benin Republic, last month, announced government’s decision to establish two new consulates in that country.
Meanwhile, the ministry has said it will restructure the country’s foreign policy to include the focus of the current administration.
A retreat was held last weekend to assess delivery, capability and mechanism of the policy currently on ground.
The fundamentals of our foreign policy as defined by the objective of principles are not only sound but relevant, Lolo said adding that what changes is the nuance that governments and regimes bring from time to time.
“We are now looking at them and crystalizing the priority of the present administration that has articulated security, the economy and the fight against corruption. All these will be important to our ministry and the mission abroad to take outside and explain to the rest of the world” he said.