By Tordue Salem
The House of Representatives and other stakeholders have thrown their weights behind a proposed law to upgrade the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, NIA, to a degree-awarding institution.
They came to this agreement, at a public hearing in Abuja on a bill for an Act to repeal and re-enact the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA).
The public hearing was organised by the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, led by Rep. Yakub Buba, (APC-Adamawa).
The stakeholders in their submissions, add their voices to the need for drastic reforms at the institute.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, commended the committee for its intervention.
Represented by Amb. Mobolaji Ogundero, Director, Office of the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Onyeama said that the NIIA is an agency under the ministry which offered great opportunities for the country.
The minister pledged the support of the ministry to the institute and the process to reposition the agency to better fulfil its mandate.
Prof. Eghosa Osaghae, NIIA’s Director-General, said that the world had moved from where it used to be in the 1960s and was now being ruled by the internet, leaving the institute behind.
Osaghae said that the 2021 budgetary capital allocation to the institute was only N46 million, explaining the reason for the drop in its standards.
He said that the NIIA was supposed to provide capacity for Nigeria and other African countries, to be able to effectively engage with other parts of the country.
According to him, the institute only had 78 members of staff, out of which only nine, including the director-general, were researchers.
The NIIA boss said that the institute needed adequate funding to meet its academic requirements and advance on its goals.
“We see that this bill will take the NIIA to the level where the world has not seen, to a level where our founding fathers will rejoice in heaven.
“This committee said it is time for dry bones to rise again, not only rise again but surpass the bones it used to be,’’ he said.
Besides, Amb. Suleiman Dahiru, Chairman of, Association of retired career Ambassadors, said that there was a need for restructuring and to ensure good management of the institute.
Dahiru said that the NIIA used to be a centre of excellence, but went under, due to poor management.
”No law is perfect but the success is largely dependent on the management,” the ambassador said.
He stressed that whatever the lawmakers do, the institute should remain an agency of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
He also said that only the ministry had the authority to direct the foreign policy of the country and according to him, an independent institute, would ruin the purpose for establishing it.
Earlier, Speaker of the House, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, canvassed support for the National Assembly in its bid to reposition the institution.
Gbajabiamila urged the stakeholders to reach down to the depth of their experiences and careers and come up with ideas that would help the parliament achieve its aim.
The chairman who is also the sponsor of the bill said he was inspired to put together the piece of legislation, to rejuvenate the NIIA.