By Yusuf Maitama Tuggar
NIGERIA’s embassies abroad, and our mission in Berlin, capital of Germany and the centre of Europe, have a proud history of openness, dynamism and innovation, a professional duty to explain and promote the political and economic transition that the Buhari administration is in the process of delivering.
It was, therefore, with some surprise and disappointment to find the catalogue of partisan, parochial, unsubstantiated and untrue allegations reported in the excellent Vanguard on 11th November in relation to internal staffing and contractual issues.
The Nigerian Embassy is a large and harmonious institution. Our diplomatic missions comprise three categories of staff: the diplomatic staff that conduct the affairs of diplomacy between Nigeria and the host government, the Attachés who perform mostly administrative duties, and the Locally Recruited Staff.
Locally Recruited Staff are engaged on a tenured contract basis and are usually recruited in the host country, regardless of their nationality and provide support services at the Embassy. Nigerians in host countries that possess the prerequisite qualifications are are also eligible for recruitment on this basis.
The Nigerian Embassy Berlin had 27 Locally Recruited Staff comprising of 24 Nigerians and four nationals of other countries. Such Staff work under a two-year contractual agreement, which could be renewed where necessary. Well before the arrival of Ambassador Yusuf Maitama Tuggar in September, The Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs had directed the Embassy to reduce the number of Local Staff to 22, in line with prudent fiscal measures.
As part of that directive from Abuja; senior diplomats had reviewed staffing and other internal issues relating to efficiency, discipline and so on. Following additional committee work and a transparent recruitment exercise 22 local staff were recruited (in compliance with the directives of the Foreign Affairs Ministry), out of which 17 staff members who had successfully re-applied for positions were re-engaged and only five were fresh applicants. The local staff members that were not re-engaged, either did not re-apply for positions or lost out to better qualified applicants.
The hardworking Nigerian community makes a huge contribution to life in Berlin and other parts of Germany. It has far less time to trouble itself with internal administrative issues at the Embassy than one or two disgruntled elements who see the gravy train of self-entitlement coming to an end.
Our Embassies are neither obliged nor required to employ Nigerians as locally recruited staff. In Berlin we have and will continue to hire locally based Nigerians, on the basis of merit, integrity and capacity, and reflecting federal character and the diversity that is the strength of Nigeria’s identity.
As part of the rationalisation exercise to reduce numbers in line with the Ministerial directive and improve standards a Committee of senior Embassy staff in Berlin informed Local Staff through a General Circular, that their contractual agreement would end on 31st October 2017. To provide a level playing ground, the Committee further informed all local staff of the opportunity to apply for positions, as well as members of the general public. Thereafter majority of the local staff applied successfully. Those who the Committee did not clear during the scheduled interview, including those staff who did not apply due to personal reasons, were not issued new letters of engagement.
The Committee also looked into the petition filed by the two aggrieved staff and established that the Embassy had acted in full compliance with all local labour laws. It also noted that there was no subsisting contract between the disengaging Local Staff, and the last contract dated back to 31st December 2016. It further pointed out that Article 12 of the Conditions of Service which was signed by all Local Staff provided that an employee who did not receive a letter of re-engagement at the expiration of his /her contract is deemed not to be an employee of the Embassy.
The Embassy is fully committed to international best practice in all areas of operations and appreciates the value of a motivated, professional and dedicated staff. It takes seriously the range of responsibilities and duty of care it has to its employees, the Nigerian community in Germany and the critical task of explaining and promoting to our friends and partners in Europe’s biggest economy the new opportunities presented by the Buhari administration.
Nigeria has called time on business as usual. The transition is not always easy and vested interests will seek to sabotage reforms that threaten long-held but often ill-deserved and generous privilege and holding back the best talent destroys morale. For the record, it is as unacceptable in Berlin as it is in Abuja. There will be no distraction or dilution from our core objectives of protecting and promoting the interests of Nigeria.