Nigeria’s foreign missions find themselves in dire financial straits due to the prolonged delay in the release of crucial funds by the Federal Government. As reported by Saturday PUNCH, the overhead vote for the second half of 2023, which was supposed to be disbursed since June, remains pending, causing significant concerns among diplomats and Foreign Service officers stationed across 109 Diplomatic Missions worldwide, comprising 97 Embassies and 12 Consulates.
Sources close to the situation have revealed that if this financial crunch continues, many missions may soon struggle to meet their obligations to staff members and local contractors. Accumulating bills for essentials like electricity, water, and sanitation have only worsened the situation.
Distressed embassy staff members, particularly those serving in Europe and Asia, have resorted to sending distress signals to colleagues at the ministry’s headquarters in Abuja. The delay in overhead allocations, meant for settling utility bills, chancery rent, staff accommodation, electricity, sanitation, and water bills, has left these diplomats in a precarious position.
Furthermore, currency exchange fluctuations have exacerbated the issue. Personnel allocations for the second half of the year have seen a significant reduction, with some missions receiving only a fraction of the expected funds. This has created a financial imbalance, making it difficult for embassies to pay salaries, local staff, contractors, and other financial obligations like rent and school fees.
A Foreign Service officer, speaking anonymously, highlighted the severe consequences of these delays, including the risk of eviction by landlords for diplomats unable to pay rent. Many diplomats have had to borrow money from friends, family, and local communities to prevent such embarrassing situations.
The situation has also impacted the maintenance of embassy facilities, as many buildings are in a state of disrepair due to inadequate funding. With the overhead allocation for July to September still unreleased, embassies are struggling to cover their expenses.
The recall of ambassadors has further complicated matters, as some officials may prioritize personal expenses over mission needs.
In addition to these issues, the government has not been disbursing the relocation allowance for officials newly posted to foreign missions from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs headquarters. This has put some chanceries at risk of eviction for unpaid rents.
This financial crisis in Nigeria’s foreign missions has long-lasting implications, affecting the country’s image and the well-being of embassy staff. While Nigerian officials have lamented the poor funding of these missions for years, the situation appears to be reaching a breaking point.
The Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has yet to provide a response to these critical funding issues. With the challenges persisting, calls have emerged for a fundamental shift, suggesting that budgetary allocations to foreign missions should be denominated in foreign currencies like dollars to mitigate exchange rate fluctuations. Only time will tell whether such changes will be implemented to resolve these longstanding financial woes.