By Joshua Olomu
Foreign Affairs Ministry has debunked speculations that it misapplied the funds meant for Missions abroad and blamed due process and transparency for delay in the disbursement.
Dr Clement Aduku, Spokesperson to the Ministry, said on Friday in a statement in Abuja that the allegations of misapplication of the funds were false and baseless.
The explanation of the ministry was in reaction to a recent allegations that local staff of the Mission in Washington were not being paid salaries.
He explained that the delay in the release of funds to ensure judicious use of scarce resources, and to check possible excesses of some heads of missions.
The dearth of funds to run the Missions, if explained, forced the President to make a representation to the National Assembly for a virement of N16,349,647,078, a request that was graciously granted in November 2016.
The Missions they were requested to submit their needs and liabilities for scrutiny against normal budgetary allocations, before they get any further money,
“The ministry further directed that before these funds would be spent, and in line with due process, express approval must be sought and obtained, “he explained.
He said the ministry concluded the process of collation, verification and approval of proposed expenditure by 60 Missions that have submitted their proposals on May 5.
It was, therefore, worrisome to note that a thorough process of prioritization and verification of proposed expenditure and claims had been misconstrued to be attempts to the funds.
“The decision of the leadership of the Ministry to prioritize payment of return passages was from the overhead allocation of the last quarter of 2016 which has just been received,’’ he further explained.
“This decision was aimed at addressing situations where retired or recalled officers have continued to remain at post perpetually, incurring further expenditure at Government expense, “ he said.
Aduku noted that the presumption that separate funds were made available to the ministry for payment of passages was wrong.
According to him, the Ministry is making efforts to address the over-bloated size of local staff, including setting ceilings and converting them to contract appointments.
This he said was part of Government’s effort at rationalizing Nigeria’s Mission abroad.
He restated the ministry’s commitment to its statutory functions of promoting and defending the interests of Nigeria abroad.
Meanwhile, local workers at the Embassy of Nigeria in Washington, one of the affected Mission, have been paid their three-month arrears.
Some of the workers confirmed to the Correspondent of NAN that they had received their cheques for the three-month arrears in dispute.
The Acting Ambassador at the Embassy, Mr. Hakeem Balogun, had told NAN on Tuesday that the Embassy was operational and not shut down.
Balogun, however, said the Federal Government was addressing the issue, and confirmed that there was a sit-in by some members of the local staff.
The Chief Driver at the Embassy, Mr Uyi Izebije, who was aggressive to the NAN Correspondent over their action, said that he had been paid.
Another worker at the Embassy, Mr Charles Uwaje, also confirmed to NAN that he had been paid the three-month arrears.
“We’re all at our various offices attending to our duties,” Uwaje, who worked in administration section, said.
Another member of staff, Ms Abimbola Akpata, told NAN that they had been paid adding “the issue has now been resolved.
“Here in administration, we are at work and everything has been resolved. The issue about salary has been resolved by the administration and we are all back to work. (NAN)