From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The National Association of Seadogs otherwise known as Pyrates Confraternity, has disclosed why Nigerian foreign missions are underperforming.
The body listed inadequate budgetary provision, corruption, low competence among Nigerian diplomatic staff, inadequate staff strength, the politicisation of foreign service, the appointment of non-professionals or political diplomats and lack of synergy between the diplomatic missions and the headquarters, as some of the issues hindering the optimal service delivery of the embassies.
In a research document unveiled in Abuja and titled ‘State of Nigerian Embassies and Consulates,’ the National Association of Seadogs said the issue of Nigerian embassies has constantly been a source of concern to Nigerians in the diaspora, Nigerians at home, and friends of Nigeria who are embarrassed by all manners of stories about the situation and services at the embassies.
In the executive summary, the association further said it decided to commission a study to determine the actual condition of the embassies and consulates through the #OurVotesCount initiative.
It said the method of study involved site visitation to the embassies and consulates, desktop review and analysis of 358 respondents from a cross-sectional survey.
“The survey was designed to ascertain the experiences and provided perceptions of Nigerians and non Nigerians who use the services at the embassies and consulates. Nigeria currently has 219 missions abroad, but the initial target of the study was 94 embassies and 12 consulates. The following embassies or consulates were informed of the study’s objectives: the Embassy of Nigeria, Washington DC, Consulates in Atlanta, and New York, Embassies of Nigeria in The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Ireland, Japan, and Australia. The Nigerian High Commissions in Ottawa, London and Consular Affairs Annex, London; Pretoria and the Consulate in Johannesburg.
“The importance of a country’s missions abroad cannot be overemphasised because sometimes, how they are perceived serve as a Measure of the prestige of a nation. Moreover, there is a nexus between a country’s mission, the pursuance of its national interests, and the implementation of its foreign policies. In essence, a nation’s diplomatic mission abroad plays an important role.
“The general perception is that Nigerian missions are not living up to the expectations of Nigerians and foreigners who use the services they provide. This study highlights inadequate budgetary provision, corruption, low competence among Nigerian diplomatic staff, inadequate staff strength, the politicisation of foreign service, the appointment of non-professionals or political diplomats and lack of synergy between the diplomatic missions and the headquarters, as some of the issues hindering the optimal service delivery of the embassies. In addition, the general impression is that the staff show some apathetic attitude towards the plights of Nigerians,” the reported read.
The National Association of Seadogs however said the situation was not all gloom.
“There are limited instances where embassy staff were reported to have been very professional, friendly, and courteous. There is an enthusiastic Nigerian atmosphere a sound queuing system, observing COVID-19 protocol, timely service, and efficiency in some cases. Unfortunately, these situations as observed, were few rather than the norm. The survey respondents’ perceptions about services received showed that only 20 percent of respondents were Satisfied with services received at the embassy, 22 percent were neutral, and 58 percent were dissatisfied. The physical infrastructure/presentation of the Nigerian embassy was considered excellent/good by about 7 percent of respondents. In comparison, 66 percent believed the infrastructure/presentation was poor. and 27 percent felt the infrastructure/presentation was average.
“The attitude of the staff was considered satisfactory by approximately only one (1) in every five (5) respondents, while 56 percent believed the attitude of staff was not satisfactory and 25 percent were neutral. However, about 31 percent of respondents indicated that they have had to pay non-official fees compared to 67 percent that did not pay any non-official fees. The reason for the payment includes expediting passport renewal, securing an appointment, payment to an agent or Nigerian association to facilitate service, and making photocopies at the embassy,” the National Association of Seadogs noted in the report.
In its recommendations, the National Association of Seadogs called for the establishment of a special trust fund for the acquisition, equipment, and maintenance of Nigerian embassies and consulates, with at least 20 percent of revenues generated from consular services domiciled in it. is long overdue.
This, the association stated, will help to reduce the over dependence on the annual national budget.
The association also called for the increment in budgetary allocation towards the acquisition of befitting embassies and consulate buildings and maintenance of existing infrastructure in Nigeria’s foreign missions is imperative and timely.
Amongst others, the research advocated for the removal of the quota system in the employment of embassy and consulate staff, saying that employment in that area should be strictly based on merit.