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New Ambassadors: Experts worried over delayed posting, say action mars diplomatic standing

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New Ambassadors: Experts worried over delayed posting, say action mars diplomatic standing

The Nigerian diplomatic arena has faced unprecedented uncertainty with anxiety enveloping the air following what seems to be an undue delay in the appointment of substantive heads of Nigerian foreign missions in the positions of ambassadors and high commissioners. What is more worrisome, according to experts, are the implications of the delay.

Though government has not been able to explain the reasons behind the development, but it has nevertheless, created restiveness ever since September last year, when the envoys were recalled.

Given the festering delay, some retired Nigerian ambassadors and experts in international relations have reacted to the development, urging the administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to expedite action towards the appointment of new enjoys.

At the time of filing this report, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had not officially reacted to Business Hallmark’s request as to why the government holding up the release of the ambassadorial list and their subsequent deployment to various missions.

However, a source in the know confided in this medium that the matter rests absolutely with the Presidency, as Tinubu has the last say. “I think there is political pressure on the president, it is more likely to be a political settlement at the end of the day”, he declared.

Lending his thought on the matter recently, a former permanent secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Martin Uhomoibhi, stated in a recent interview that ambassadors and high commissioners are the highest officers at the diplomatic missions and it would not be a good idea to “leave the foreign missions vacant for long because of the serious implications it might have regarding how the nation is rated within the comity of nations”.

He added that “if our diplomacy must achieve the desired results, then the earlier the substantive ambassadors are appointed to replace the ones that have been recalled the better.”

Also speaking on the matter, a former permanent secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who served as one time envoy to Ethiopia, Ambassador Bulus Lolo, stated that the appointment of ambassadors rests squarely with the President, saying that no law stipulates when ambassadors should be appointed after a President assumes office.

He averred that it will serve Nigeria’s national and strategic interest better to have ambassadors in place in countries, where the level of representation is ambassadorial.

“This is because diplomacy is a rank conscious profession. An ambassador is the principal representative of the President, who is a sovereign. In all jurisdictions around the world, the respect accorded an ambassador is higher than that of a lower ranking diplomat. Therefore, a Charge d’Affaires, whether En Titre or Ad Interim, will not command the respect that an ambassador would,” he declared.

On the implications of this for Nigeria, he stated that they are binary in nature.
“First, for the time that there are no ambassadors to man Nigeria’s diplomatic missions abroad, one can safely presume or even conclude that access to certain doors, including investment opportunities for our country, may be circumscribed.

“Second, and this should be of greater concern to the President Tinubu-led administration; it takes a minimum of six months for an average Nigerian ambassadorial appointee to complete the requisite processes necessary before assumption of office abroad, particularly, for those going to bilateral missions and, of necessity, need the consent of the receiving country.

“With eleven months almost gone in the tenure of the administration, it means that ambassadors appointed by the government will have barely two and a half years to serve. Considering the time it will take for the ambassadors to settle down at their new posts, it stands to reason that they may probably not serve more than two productive years before changes may be made following the next presidential election in 2027, and this is what the administration will need to bear in mind as the President decides on when to announce the names of his ambassadorial nominees,” he said.

He said the President should hasten action in the appointment of ambassadors, adding that the longer it takes for this crucial action to be taken, the shorter will be the tenure of the appointees at their duty posts.

Reacting to this development, former Nigerian High Commissioner to Singapore, Ambassador Ogbole Ode, was widely quoted as saying that the nomination, screening, appointment and deployment of principal envoys to man Nigeria’s diplomatic and consular missions abroad follow a set process.

“Some stages in the process are out of the control of the sending state (in this case, Nigeria), especially, where it concerns seeking the nod of the receiving state via what is called the Agrément. This, in international affairs, is the agreement by a state to receive the principal envoy of a diplomatic mission from a foreign country. In this procedure, the posting (sending) state formally requests consent, via a demande d’agréation, from the receiving state before appointing a principal envoy to the receiving state.”

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He noted that while the current process had not gotten to this stage, it is still one of the stages that can be responsible for considerable delays.

“The nomination list might be what is causing the current ‘go-slow’, to use the popular Nigerian street parlance. Whilst the relevant rule found in the Foreign Service Regulations (FSR) stipulates a ratio of 70%-30% in favour of career diplomats, one cannot say with certainty that the rule is being obeyed in contemporary Nigeria. The spoils of office syndrome may be at play.

“Screening of nominees by the relevant committee of the upper chamber of the Parliament is still awaiting us,” he said.
On the implications of the absence of envoys on Nigeria relations with other countries and major global events, the former envoy said that if it is viewed from the perspective of continuity in governance, one may say that not much is lost with the absence of substantive heads of Nigeria’s diplomatic missions across the globe.

He said, however, that when viewed from the perspective of diplomatic practice that relies heavily on rank and ranking, it means that the absence of principal envoys is detrimental to Nigeria’s ability to achieve set goals, especially but not limited to Nigeria’s multilateral missions.

According to him, certain negotiations between countries can only be held at the level of substantive heads of missions and any officer of a lower rank participating in such meetings, both in representational capacity, may not be accorded “full credence”
“Deployment of heads of missions could pose another delay. Here, it is the prerogative of Mr. President on advice from Tafawa Balewa House.

“Passages, i.e passport and visa issuance to appointees and their families, ticketing, etc, could pose threats to quick and orderly departure of diplomats in general. Here, the foreign ministry must up its act to stymie the potential delay points”.

An expert in international relations Dr. Musa Abdullahi told Business Hallmark “having charge d’ affairs is in most cases a temporary arrangements, that should not exist for this long.

Recall that the minister of foreign affairs recently launched what he called 4D foreign policy objective of Democracy, Demography, Diaspora and Development. But experts have worried how the government intend to drive it without ambassadors?

“What we have been hearing for several months now is that Mr. President is vetting the list of ambassadorial appointments; I think this is taking too long”, Dr.Olufemi Omoyele, a university don and public commentator told Business Hallmark.

Another expert, Professor Adeagbo Moritiwon, a political scientist said:
“Indeed, the transnational nature of today’s problems suggest that the state system itself with its formalised diplomacy, dominant since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, may no longer be sufficient to resolve today’s global challenges. However, formalised diplomacy is crucial because it partners non-state actors to address mutual global issues.
“The failure, neglect or refusal of the President Tinubu administration to appoint ambassadors to foreign countries almost a year after assumption of office is a wrong signal and indicative of less commitment to diplomatic values. The fact is that if action is not taken, Nigeria’s growing foreign engagements and bilateral arrangements will not have the attention it deserves in terms of execution by foreign states and development partners”.

“Under Article 4 of the Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations and Optional Protocols, 1961, an ambassador can be sent only after an agreement is entered into between the sending and receiving countries. Usually, it is a formal and routine practice.

 

 

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