Nigerian foreign missions are grappling with severe financial strain due to delays by the Federal Government in releasing allocated funds. As of the second half of 2023, overhead funds, meant to have been disbursed in June, remain unpaid, putting many embassies in precarious positions. Diplomats and Foreign Service officers from 109 Diplomatic Missions globally are expressing concerns over the potential impacts on their operations and well-being.
With accumulating utility bills, such as electricity and sanitation, embassy staff members across Europe, Asia, and other regions are sending distress signals to the ministry’s headquarters in Abuja. There’s a consistent pattern of underfunding or late funding from the Federal Government. Some embassy personnel are reportedly resorting to personal loans to cover essential costs, such as rent and school fees. The situation poses risks to the image and functionality of Nigerian embassies abroad.
The challenges are further compounded by the fluctuating exchange rates and foreign policies. The new forex rate has led to considerable reductions in remittances to embassies. Consequently, many embassies might be unable to cover salaries, entitlements, and other operational costs.
The historical trend indicates a persistent issue with funding allocations to foreign missions. Recent allocations in the 2023 Budget show a stark contrast with releases made in prior years. Furthermore, the Foreign Affairs ministry’s responses to these challenges appear to be insufficient or non-committal, with some embassies facing potential shutdowns due to a lack of funds.
Experts advise that the budgetary allocation for missions should be in dollars to prevent devaluation issues. Meanwhile, public figures have highlighted the disparity in funding and support between Nigeria and other countries like South Africa, emphasizing the need for Nigeria to bolster its foreign policy and diplomatic engagements.