Ojo Maduekwe The Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs yesterday castigated the Foreign Affairs Minister Ojo Maduekwe over what it calls his frequent trips on which he has spent N2.7billion. Chairman of the Committee, Senator Jibril Aminu, said at the 2010 budget defence by the ministry that Maduekwe’s trips outside the country were ‘wasteful’.
The committee said the ministry failed to disburse funds to foreign missions, thereby resulting in non-payment of salaries and allowances of diplomats in the past three months.
While charging the minister to cut down on his trips, Aminu said: “The whole budget of the Ministry of Commerce is about N2 billion while that of the Ministry of Police Affairs is about N1 billion but you have used N2.7 billion for international travels alone.
And you are even asking for increase in the 2010 budget. “These foreign travels are wasteful, you have to cut it down. There is no way we are going to give you more money for international travels.”
Maduekwe said the trips were undertaken for the sake of diplomacy. He said: “Diplomacy is all about visibility even technology has not helped in reducing international travels in diplomacy.
There is no way that the travel commitment of the Foreign Ministry could be compared to that of the Ministry of Commerce.”
On the non-payment of salaries and allowances of diplomats, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Alhaji Jibril Maigari, said that due to a shortfall of 21 percent in the allocated funds to the missions, about N8 billion could not be disbursed.
He said the exchange rate of the Naira to the dollar in the budget was N118 but in the end the Naira fell to N150 per dollar causing a shortfall in the funds disbursed to the missions.
“The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has paid N4.5 billion to take care of the shortfall but the remaining could not be paid because the supplementary budget is not ready,” he stated.
A member of the committee, Senator Bob Effiong, while expressing disappointment at the delays the foreign missions experienced in accessing their funds, blamed it on dubious civil servants.
“The civil servants are the problem. You may not know, the system is being run wrongly. Do you know that some missions don’t even have enough funds to provide some necessities?” he queried.
Replying, Maduekwe said some ambassadors were fond of embarking on frivolous trips and paying themselves huge estacodes thereby leaving little to run the missions.