Five weeks after President Bola Tinubu ordered the recall of Nigeria’s ambassadors, there is growing uncertainty regarding their return, with only 21 days left before the October 31 deadline. This has led to speculation that the government may extend the recall period.
On September 2, President Tinubu issued a directive recalling all Nigerian ambassadors, including both career and non-career envoys, from their foreign postings. Nigeria maintains over 300 foreign missions worldwide, making this a significant move.
The announcement of the recall was made by Ambassador Yusuf Tuggar, the Minister of Foreign Affairs. In response to inquiries about the recall of the Nigerian High Commissioner to the UK, Ambassador Sarafa Ishola, Ambassador Tuggar clarified that the recall applied to all ambassadors and was in line with President Tinubu’s agenda for improved efficiency and quality in foreign and domestic service delivery.
Despite statements from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs asserting that there is no going back on the recall, there are concerns about the lack of preparations for the envoys’ return by the October 31 deadline. One ambassador revealed that no concrete measures have been taken to facilitate their return.
Normally, ambassadors and envoys are provided with Authority to Incur Expenditures (AIEs) for their return, specifying the details of their entitlements and travel arrangements, according to Vanguard Newspaper. As of now, these AIEs have not been issued, leaving the envoys uncertain about their return plans.
The reasons behind the delay in implementing the recall remain unclear. Some ambassadors have been advised by government officials to wait for further instructions and funding, rather than attempting to return independently.
Former Nigerian Ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Joe Keshi, suggested that overzealous politicians may be pressuring the recall process. He emphasized that recalling diplomats should be done in accordance with standard diplomatic procedures and not under political pressure.
Meanwhile, Nigerian missions across the globe have been grappling with financial difficulties since the 2016 fiscal year. Budget shortfalls and delays in payments of overhead and personal allocations have resulted in substantial debts to service providers in host countries. Some missions, including those in New York, Washington, Caracas, Brasilia, Luanda, Bucharest, Hanoi, and Havana, are reportedly facing severe financial strains.
This situation has raised concerns about the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ treatment of its officers, with critics arguing that officers should be paid before being asked to return, considering that their expenditures are typically in foreign currency.
As the October 31 deadline approaches, uncertainty prevails among the recalled ambassadors, with no clear indication of when they will receive the necessary support and instructions for their return.