Ninety-six days after the Senate confirmed the nomination of 42 career ambassadors, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has yet to assign them portfolio.
Similarly, the 39 non-career ambassadors and one additional career ambassador, who were confirmed on July 22, 2020, by the Senate have yet to be posted.
In all, 82 ambassadors are waiting without a clue as to where and when they will resume.
A diplomat, who spoke to The PUNCH on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak with the press, said the delay was not caused by the closure of the airspace due to COVID-19 but rather lack of funds and poor planning.
The diplomat noted that Buhari similarly delayed the posting of ambassadors in 2016.
“I know the government will want to blame the current delay on COVID-19, but just cast your mind back to the appointment of career ambassadors in 2016. They were confirmed in November 2016, but President Buhari released their postings in May 2017, more than six months later. You can check this on Google. This was long before COVID-19,” the diplomat stated.
He said it was likely that the newly appointed ambassadors would not be posted to their respective places of primary assignment until next year.
He added, “There are two major things causing this delay. The first is that the non-career ambassadors, who are candidates of powerful politicians, including governors, have been engaged in intense lobbying for countries like the United Kingdom and the United States, while we, the career diplomats, will get the less desired countries.
“Secondly, the government doesn’t have enough money. The initial plan was that some less strategic foreign missions would be closed down. Unfortunately, the President appointed 82 new ambassadors and then retained 12, which means we are about 94 ambassadors in all.”
The source said even if the airspace was closed, the Federal Government ought to have assigned them postings so that their names would be sent to the respective countries of primary assignment.
He noted that this process could be time consuming and the government ought to have at least set the ball rolling to save time.
Explaining the process, the source said, “When an ambassador is to be posted out, the country he is to be posted to will be communicated to him. Then, the country where he is to resume will be notified in writing. The country will then accept or reject him.
“If he is accepted, a document known as ‘agreement’ will be forwarded to Nigeria. Then, the ambassador will be given a letter of credence, which will be presented to the President of that foreign country.
“This process can be long or short, depending on several factors, including the level of diplomatic relations between the two nations. For instance, an ambassadorial posting between the US and the UK can take just 48 hours, because they are allies.”
When asked if it was possible to have started the process when the airspace was shut due to COVID-19 pandemic, the diplomat answered in the affirmative.
He said one of the factors that delay the postings was that the government tried to do all postings at once.
When contacted, the spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Ferdinand Nwoye, said the ministry was awaiting directives from the Presidency.
“We have done what is expected of us. We are waiting for directives from the government,” he said.