By Henry Umoru
ABUJA — THERE was a sharp disagreement, yesterday, between the Senate and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Amb. Olugbenga Ashiru, over whether some of the foreign embassies should be closed down for lack of funds.
This came just as Ashiru told the Senators during the defence of 2013 budget that the ministry and the embassies were handicapped as they lacked funds to carry out major administrative activities required of them.
He also stressed that if there was inadequate funding, there was nothing the embassies could do.
According to him, it was the prayer of everyone that nothing very serious as tragedy breaks up outside the country because the embassies and missions would be incapacitated.
The argument on whether some of the embassies or missions be shut came up when the Senators made it clear that it had become imperative to do that since they lacked funds to operate.
But responding, the Foreign Affairs Minister who noted that closing foreign embassies would not be better for the country in the international community, was however, quick to add that it would create more enemies for the country among nations, just as he canvassed the reduction of staff of the various embassies to reduce the cost of funding the embassies across the world.
Speaking earlier during the defence, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Senator Matthew Nwagwu, PDP, Imo North advised the minister to close down some embassies to address the problem of inadequate funding facing the foreign missions.
Olugbenga informed members of the committee that there was financial provision for any Nigerian stranded in foreign countries as he also expressed concern over bad and off the road cars being used by the country’s ambassadors in their places of primary assignment. He urged the committee to jerk up the budget of the ministry if it must solve these problems.
When asked on the deportation ofNigeriawomen fromSaudi Arabiaduring hajj, the minister, however, advised that there was the need for Nigerians to plan ahead, even as he described the situation as very unfortunate. He said it was not foreseen by the ministry, but added he met the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia and resolved the issue.