In a recent development surrounding the recall of Nigerian ambassadors, concerns are growing as the Federal Government appears to be hesitating on its initial decision. President Bola Tinubu ordered the recall of all Nigerian ambassadors, both career and non-career, on September 2, sparking widespread discussions and speculations about the motives behind this move.
Ambassador Yusuf Tuggar, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, conveyed the recall instructions on behalf of President Tinubu. The Presidency, through its spokesperson, Mr. Ajuri Ngelale, emphasized that the President’s decision stemmed from a comprehensive assessment of Nigerian consulate offices and embassies worldwide, aiming to enhance service quality and efficiency.
However, despite the October 31 deadline looming just three weeks away, there seems to be a lack of progress in facilitating the ambassadors’ return. According to one ambassador, there are no preparations in place for their return, and the reasons behind this delay remain unclear.
A senior staff member of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, speaking anonymously, pointed out that the customary practice involves providing ambassadors with “Authority to Incur Expenditures” (AIEs) to cover their travel expenses. These documents are essential for diplomats to make travel arrangements and return to Nigeria. However, as of now, these AIEs have not been issued, further complicating the situation.
Some ambassadors have expressed frustration and confusion regarding the recall process. One diplomat stated that they were in the dark about the whole issue and even received advice from foreign affairs ministry officials to remain in their current postings until the government makes a definitive decision or provides the necessary financial support for their return.
Regarding the October 31 deadline, another diplomat suggested that the ministry should already be finalizing the necessary arrangements. While ambassadors can be recalled at any time, it is the ministry’s responsibility to ensure that all financial obligations are met before their return.
Former Nigerian Ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Joe Keshi, weighed in on the matter, suggesting that overzealous politicians might be exerting undue pressure on the recall process. He stressed that diplomatic procedures should not be rushed, likening it to recalling military personnel from a war zone.
In the background of this controversy, it’s worth noting that Nigerian missions worldwide have faced financial difficulties, with many owing significant debts to service providers. This situation has persisted since 2016 when budget shortfalls and delays in payments of overhead and personal allocations began to affect these missions, impacting the livelihoods of diplomats serving abroad.
As the October 31 deadline approaches, uncertainty prevails over the fate of these recalled ambassadors, leaving many questions unanswered about the government’s intentions and its commitment to resolving this diplomatic matter.