The House of Representatives has summoned the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffery Onyeama, over allegations of contempt.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was accused by the lawmakers of contravening the provision of the 2022 Appropriations Act on the financing of capital expenditures of embassies.
Femi Gbajabimaila, the Speaker of the House, had directed Mr Onyeama and the Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Finance to meet with him on Tuesday.
The directive by Gbajabiamila was a sequel to a motion of urgent public importance moved by Kassim Maigari (PDP, Taraba) on Thursday during the plenary.
Mr Maigari said the lawmakers inserted certain provisions in the 2022 Appropriations Act to address the rot in embassies and missions by allowing them to spend money for approved capital projects in their missions without recourse to the ministry.
The lawmaker said the essence of the action by the National Assembly is to remove bureaucratic bottlenecks impeding the effective running of embassies.
He stated that officials of the ministry had written letters to all the foreign missions and embassies to ignore the law. Mr Maigari described the action of the ministry as an affront to the National Assembly.
“If the effrontery and impunity of those officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that are so flagrantly challenging a law signed by the president, using diverse means, including the writing of letters to counter provisions of an existing law, are allowed to go unaddressed, we may wake up one morning, God forbid, to hear that the National Assembly has been sacked by the mere letter of one senior government official in one ministry of government,” he said.
Buba Yakubu (APC, Adamawa), who is the Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, corroborated the allegation by Mr Maigari.
Mr Yakubu said he wrote the Minister of Foreign Affairs to ensure the ministry gives support for the law, but the ministry still instructed embassies not to obey the law.
He added that requests for approval from foreign missions could take months or years without a reply from the ministry.
“When we got to the ministry for oversight, we saw letters in the registry that are up to six months, letters written to the minister or the National Assembly.
“Embassies like Berlin, Jakarta, Dakar, Beirut and so many of them have funds in their accounts for like four years, while banks are applying charges to these funds. Getting approval from the ministry has become an issue. When we went to Cameroon, where the former Chief of Defence Staff (Abayomi Olonisakin) is serving, in his residence, a fence that is not up to 50 metres, fell but an officer has to be called from Abuja, pay for his flights, estacode – to see it before they give approval for the repair.
“I wrote the minister to allow this law to be implemented. I also wrote the embassies, but on the 20th of January, the ministry wrote a letter to all the embassies, that they should not honour the letter written by the National Assembly.”
In his contribution, the Speaker said he has also gotten a first-hand experience of the rots at some of the embassies.
In addition to summoning the minister, the House resolved that the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should comply with the provision of Section 11 of the 2022 Appropriations Act( Power of Nigerian Embassies and Missions) and report such compliance to the House within one week.
It also directed the ministry to rescind contents of the letter countering an earlier letter written by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
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