The eviction notice to Nigerian Embassy in Hungary

LAST week, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Godfrey Onyeama, indicated that the landlord of the building housing the Nigerian embassy in Hungary was threatening to evict the embassy. Speaking while defending the ministry’s 2021 budget at the House of Representatives, Onyeama identified the movement of officers, ambassadors and their families as one of the major challenges facing the ministry. There was a need, he said, to address the inadequate overhead budgetary provisions to the missions which had resulted in a lot of debt for electricity and rent.

He said: “We get that (eviction threat) from a lot of missions across the world and that is not a sustainable way of running foreign service. Then this exchange rate differential with the CBN is really something we need to address once and for all. It is not so easy, all of these things are computed in naira and all the payments abroad are in dollars and once the exchange rate is changed, it never goes the other way; it always goes up. It never comes down vis-a-vis the dollar. This means immediate shortfall for all our missions.”

Onyeama added that the Federal Government was making plans to reduce the number of international organisations the country belonged to because of the scarcity of funds. “We are just owing money left and right and it is not good for the image of the country. A lot of our missions are eyesores and it is just a huge embarrassment to the country that we can have missions in such terrible conditions. We have been receiving letters from the National Assembly forwarding to us various claims and judgments and asking us to pay them. We have a big challenge with clothing allowances. As you know, all officers in our missions from grade level 7 and above are entitled to $2,500 clothing allowance per annum. In the 2021 budget, about 1,312 officers will be expecting the payment of these allowances and if you take at the CBN official rate, we are looking at N1.2 billion.”

If the housing challenge in Hungary is any indication, the Nigerian government is simply irresponsible. Over time, the government has found it difficult to pay workers decent wages. Time and again, it has defaulted in the payment of the salaries and allowances of workers while gorging on the country’s resources, and it is an utter shame that it has extended this sordid practice abroad. Pray, did the government not know that the rent would expire in Hungary and other embassies? Why keep embassies open while unwilling to meet eve basic obligations like rent payment? Or was the government expecting those buildings to run as charities?

To say the least, the revelation by the Foreign Affairs minister casts the country in very bad light. It portrays the country as lacking quality leadership and as being undeserving of respect in the comity of nations. Just how can the government explain its refusal to pay up its bills while constantly fleecing the citizenry through various forms of taxation? The lesson from the Hungary embarrassment is quite simple: the country requires fundamental change. The Hungary scenario is systemic of the way the government runs things in general and it is time for a paradigm shift. The country requires functional systems and a political leadership that knows how to run a modern state. On current evidence, that is still an expensive dream.

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