AT a time of growing international security challenges and global economic concerns, Nigeria’s 88 ambassadors – 56 career diplomats and 32 political appointees – are stepping into daunting assignments.
Their hands are literarily full; they will hit the ground running. In many countries, Nigerians are languishing in jail, most of them without any consular assistance, and in some cases, victims of the fact that their hosts knew their country would not care. These cases require closer attention, just as the stories of the dehumanising treatment from their hosts demand investigations.
Against the backdrop of the recent diplomatic spat between Nigeria and South Africa over the acts of impunity resulting in the arrogant and xenophobic deportation of Nigerian travellers from Johannesburg, the new envoys must see an end to the long standing tradition of mal-treating Nigerians. Similar cases abound in other countries, the difference may be only in the number of those affected.
More and more Nigerians are living abroad. The demands for their welfare will continue. Nigeria is already competing with India as one of the countries with large numbers of its citizens living in other countries. We cannot leave Nigerians abroad to the mercy of a world often blighted by hostility to foreigners. Nigerians will reciprocate government’s interest in their well being. When a country caters for its citizens, they advance its interests as individuals and groups.
The tasks before the new diplomats are indeed enormous. They have to build bridges to foster economic growth and tackle the menace of fake and harmful good being dumped in the country. Searches for solutions to the country’s security imbroglio will be one of their mandates.
Government has an obligation to fund the missions properly and stop the embarrassments of Nigerian diplomats being ejected from their apartments for failure to pay rent or their children being withdrawn from school over unpaid fees.
It is with these in mind that we find it surprising that while government is cutting cost to align with its plans to free funds for capital expenditure, government is reopening some missions shut earlier. How would it fund more missions? Better fewer missions that are well funded, than many missions that would result in poor image for Nigeria, when there are no funds for them.
As the envoys proceed on their assignments, they have a mandate to serve Nigerians in ways that would reflect the country’s recent efforts at protecting her citizens. The dispute between Nigeria and the United Kingdom over bilateral air services agreement is another example of the sort of briefs awaiting the envoys.
It is no longer acceptable for Nigerians to receive second-class treatment. Our envoys will see to that. Vanguard Nigeria