President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to review the size and number of Nigeria’s foreign missions.
The Permanent Secretary, Paul Bulus Lolo, spoke with State House correspondents after making a presentation to President Buhari on the ministry’s activities.
According to him, Nigeria needed to review the number of its 119 missions based on its capacity, especially as the economy is looking down.
To this end, he said a committee would be set up to look at the issue.
He said: “We also talked about the state of our embassies. All of these in the context of what Nigeria aspire to be at home, on the sub-region, in 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 whether we need to have that number or we rationalise based on our capacity. Right now, the economy is looking down. We are trying to revive and revamp. It is a matter of time.
“The specific directive that he has given is that a committee be formed to look at the 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.
On the time frame, he said: “As soon as possible. No specific time frame but he said the sooner, the better. Action needs to be taken.”
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.”
He said he underlined the importance of the activities of the ministry, which is 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 foreign policy derived from domestic policy.
He said: “There is a close nexus between a country’s domestic and foreign policy. 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 crystallise into what opportunities there are and challenges.”
He said the ministry was crystallising the priority of the present administration, which had articulated security, the economy and the fight against corruption.
He said: “The fundamentals of our foreign policy as defined by the objective 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 Nigerian government policy starting with 1975 when the slogan was “Africa has come of age”. President when he was in power 1983-1985 came up with the concentric circle concept.
“General Babangida as President from 1985 until he stepped outside came with two things: Concept of Medium powers as well as economic diplomacy. Then under the late Yar’Adua, we dealt with citizen diplomacy and the last regime came with transformation agenda.
“We are now looking at them and crystallising 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 added.