A source close to Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, has revealed how a Career Ambassador nominee in the President Muhammadu Buhari cabinet, leveraged on the weakness and “incompetence” of Onyeama to brush aside “diplomatic courtesies and Public Service Rules by assuming duty at the Embassy of Nigeria in Conakry, Guniea”.
The source told Heritage Times that the ambassador, Mohammed Abubakar from Jigawa state, assumed duty on March 15, 2021, “even when Ambassadors have not been cleared to depart for post”.
“Mohammed Abubakar, a career Ambassador from Jigawa state and Ambassador designate to the Republic of Guinea broke diplomatic protocols, disrespected diplomatic courtesies and public Service rules by assuming duty at the Embassy of Nigeria, in Conakry, Guinea on 15th March 2021 even when Ambassadors have not been cleared to depart for post.
“This is an act of gross insubordination, flagrant disrespect of constituted authority and an act unbecoming of an Ambassador. Such display of diplomatic rascality from a Man that’s supposed to be representative of the President of the federal republic of Nigeria cannot be condoned or swept under the carpet,” the source said.
The official confided in Heritage Times that those close to the Minister, have become worried over his declining capacity, as things have gone from bad to worse in the Ministry under his watch.
Heritage Times recalls that since the appointment of Onyeama by President Buhari-led administration, his ability to take charge and deliver, has generated chains of controversy. He has sometimes been described by those close to him, as “incompetent” to handle such a huge role of being the country’s representative in the international community.
The source further called for “the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Mr President to immediately recall Ambassador Abubakar back to Nigeria and replace him with someone characterized by the ideals of Foreign Service, the tranquillity and equanimity of a career diplomat as Ambassador extraordinaire to the republic of Guinea”.
“Under Geoffrey Onyeama’s watch as Minister of Foreign Affairs, things have gone from bad to worse in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Only recently an Ambassador in an open letter to the minister, exposed alleged unbridled corruption and culture of impunity in the Ministry.
“Indeed, the Ministry continues to be on the news for the wrong reasons under Onyeama. Hardly has any of the issues raised settled before another issue comes up in the Ministry. These issues continue to expose the incompetence of Geoffrey Onyeama. Alas, the minister has time and again acknowledged in public that he is grossly incompetent in administration,” the source added.
According to the source, “Ambassador Abubakar may just have leveraged on the poor handling of the Ministry by Onyeama knowing that he would not be reprimanded by the Minister”. The source added that some of the officers, who would not want their names mentioned, “acknowledged that the actions of the ambassador is a breach of diplomatic protocols that should not be left unattended to”.
Again, an open letter recently sent to the Minister by Nigeria’s immediate-past High Commissioner to Namibia, Ambassador Lilian Onoh, lampooned the level of ‘financial impropriety and impunity’ being perpetrated by senior officials of the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In November 2020, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reached an unprecedented level of tension, as members of its staff union, under the auspices of the Joint Negotiating Council, JNC, staged a peaceful protest at the offices of the principal officers of the Ministry; Minister, Minister of State and Permanent Secretary.
Their action came just few weeks after a Committee on Foreign Affairs from the House of Representatives had expressed concerns over the deplorable situation of the Ministry. The Ministry’s cleaners also embarked on strike over four months unpaid salaries. Reports also went viral at the time that the Nigerian Embassy in Hungary had also faced eviction for lack of rent payments.
The demands of the members of staff included, but were not limited to issues of welfare and the security of their jobs which they considered being threatened by unfolding policies in the ministry. Some other notable demands included, halting the planned pooling of branch B officers in the Ministry; provision of appropriate working materials, as staff had resorted to buying stationaries by themselves. The immediate release of eternal postings of officers which has not been done for 2019 and 2020 (two years); training and retraining of all cadre of officers; payment of 2020 clothing allowance; rehabilitation of the ministry’s restroom; and a familiarization meeting with members of staff by the principal officers.
Although our sources revealed that the salaries of the ministry’s cleaners had been paid in full, the failure of Onyeama and his Minister of State, Amb. Zubairu Dada to compel the then Permanent Secretary to the Ministry, Mrs. Anthonia Ekpa, to arrange an emergency meeting with the aggrieved workers to douse the already built up tension, portrayed more incompetency.
The Minister who was seen making telephone calls presumably to the Permanent Secretary, was still unable to mandate her to come for the meeting.
Some officers who spoke to Heritage Times, frowned at the unwarranted deployment of Administrative Officers from the Head of Service to the Ministry, under the guise that members of staff were not professional administrators. It was gathered that similarly, the ICT division of the Ministry was not presently headed by an officer from the Ministry which makes the sensitive communication system further prone to compromise and sabotage.
“Our moral is at its lowest ebb. Things are moving fast from bad to worse and something urgently needs to be done to save the Nigeria’s ministry of foreign affairs.
“It is more than one month since the new Permanent Secretary assumed office in the Ministry. Yet she has not deemed it fit to meet with members of staff. What was she told about us that has made her very confrontational towards officer?” one of the workers who spoke on condition of anonymity said.
Another officer who also did not want to be mentioned, highlighted that: “around the world, no ministry of foreign affairs is ran like home ministry. The ministry is a specialized one and should be treated so. You don’t just deploy officers without the prerequisite training to the Foreign Ministry. Even the Public Service Rule forbids it”.
In January, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a press statement announcing a visit from the Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. According to the statement released, the Chinese Minister alongside other high ranking officials visited for two days starting from Monday until Tuesday. During the visit, COVID-19 protocols and safety measures were thrown away by Onyeama. Barely two days to the Federal Government’s suspension of about 100 passports for non-compliance with the protocols, the Chinese Minister alongside his entourage arrived Nigeria and soon after left without taking part in any COVID-19 protocol.
Again, the Ministry in December last year, ignored the PTF’s warning on Christmas Carol in Abuja due to the impending second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ministry instead of shunning the unnecessary event to set a standard for others, rather organised a Carol that had Ambassadors and even a former president in attendance.