From Kemi Yesufu and Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
The House of Representatives, yesterday, mandated its the Committees on Foreign Relations and Public Procurement to investigate allegations of corruption in the Nigerian Missions.
The House also mandated the joint committee, which is to report back to it within six weeks, to come up with, “measures to alleviate the sufferings of Nigerians in the diaspora.”
This was as the Green Chamber urged, “the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure Nigerian Missions abroad provide counseling and support to Nigerians in time of need and to operate a 24-hour helpline desk for Nigerians in the diaspora.”
The resolution of the House followed the adoption of a motion sponsored by Rita Orji and Sergius Ose Ogun on the “need to investigate activities and the procurement process of Nigerian Embassies/High Commissions to cut costs and fight corruption.”
The lawmakers, while moving the motion, said “Nigeria’s high commissions and embassies are administratively under the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs and, as such, have their individual budgets computed under the ministry.
“All sums spent by the foreign missions are meant to be subjected by parliamentary oversight in the light of the fact that the spendings are provided for under the Appropriation Act passed by the National Assembly.
The lawmakers also noted the allegations by Nigerians in the diaspora of acts of insensitivity, laxity, negligence and near outright maltreatment by consular staff of Nigerian Embassies/High Commissions across the world which inflict mental torture on them.
They also noted “acts in the bureaucratic bottlenecks in the renewal of expired passports, extortion of money from those seeking assistance or redress and outright insensitivity to the plight of those in dire need which had resulted in the abandonment in a mental home in Turin, Italy, of one Julie Osamese whose kidney was stolen and the death of Nwadike Stephen Chukwuemeka in a deportation camp in Malaysia.”
The lawmakers expressed concern about the need to investigate the activities of the high commissions and embassies “including those payments approved and disbursed and the procurement processes being employed by the embassies and high commissions.” They said the nation would continually be bled and “the sincerity of the government’s war against corruption will be called to question.”
However, Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Nnenna Elendu-Ukeje, through an amendment, sought the removal of committees of Diaspora and Interior from the investigations.
She said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs supervises embassies/missions hence, it would only be appropriate if the Foreign Relations Committee and Public Procurement conducts the investigation.
Members of the committee supported the amendment and the committees of Diaspora and Interior were removed from the mandate.