OFFICE OF THE CHAIRMAN, COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES UNDERTAKES OVERSIGHT FUNCTION OF THE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS,FROWNS AT THE LEVEL OF DECAY AND POOR MAINTENANCE OF THE MINISTRY HEADQUARTERS .
The Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives,as part of its statutory functions as a Committee of the Legislature,today undertook an oversight visit to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs headquarters in Abuja.
On arrival at the Ministry’s headquarters,the Committee was received by the duo of the Honourable Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs,Amb. Zubairu Dada, and the Permanent Secretary,Mrs,Anthonia Akpabio Ekpa,P.hD. The Hon. Minister of State, subsequently,excused himself to attend what he said was a crucial meeting at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa,Abuja,while promising to be in for the briefing session at 2 p.m.
Alongside the Permanent Secretary,Hon.Members of the Committee undertook a comprehensive tour of the Headquarters of the Ministry ( Tafawa Balewa House),Abuja.
While the Committee noted the general lack of co- ordination in the activities and administration of the Ministry headquarters, where Management and the staff seemed so distant apart,it also observed with dismay the result of such lack of coordination in the general lack of attention to the basic requirements of every official environment, like cleanliness, continuous distribution and delivery of mail,office maintenance,restocking among others.
All of the above were, however,part of the general decay that exists in a place which is officially the first place of contact or call by every international visitor or envoy to the Nigerian nation and the nation’ s first point of relationship and interface with the outside world.
Specifically speaking ,the Committee on Foreign Affairs observed,
a. That the entire complex of the Ministry headquarters was in a state of disrepair. In most of the offices, including those of the Hon. Minister and the Permanent Secretary, ceilings are beginning to cave-in and walls that were said to have been either painted or recently “maintained” are in dire need of attention;
b. That a place,which should have uninhibited contacts with over 100 Embassies and High Commissions across the world and with other nations of the globe cannot boast of a functional wifi or full Internet facilities,owing largely to the fact that the Ministry is said to be indebted to its Internet Service Provider ( Galaxy Backbone) to the tune of over a hundred million Naira,that being sum for the provision of sundry services in network and Internet deployment in the last three years;
c. That the ICT Department is only existing in the Ministry only in name and that the equipment installed to power its activities are either moribund, malfunctioning or outdated,with no one present ever remembering anytime most of the components last worked within the last five years. Even the many scanners installed as part of security checks in the edifice are all far from being functional;
d. That the Staff Clinic, its furnishing, including the laboratory and the Pharmacy are all in such a state of malfunctioning that does not befit the status of a modern Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a nation that prides itself as the Giant of Africa;
e. That there is no alternative source of power supply in the entire edifice that houses an ICT/ Data Storage Centre,a Clinic,Pharmacy,office of the Hon. Minister,that of Minister of State,that of the Permanent Secretary and those of over fifteen Directors as well as others lack what kind be considered the basic electricity need in the Ministry. This is also apart from the minimum power supply required to power nine elevator machines that can pose high risks for staff and other users whenever there is a power outage;
f. That part of the general decay and malfunctioning of the edifice ,like the absence of a functional alternative source of power supply,which is duly provided for in the contract and design of the building,stems from a raging legal tussle between the Company that constructed the edifice( Bulet Construction Company) and the Ministry. As a result of the above, many of the offices are in darkness and toilet facilities lacking light and water for basic use;
g. That there is a general dereliction of duties among some categories of staff, especially, by those whose duties range from maintaining the building to sweeping, cleaning and the distribution of mails. For instance,the Committee discovered that several letters written to the Ministry from across the globe,which were intended for its Ministers, Management,staff and even the National Assembly, never reached the hands of those for whom they were intended, and that many personnel files and others have been left mangled and drenched in water licking through malfunctioning sewage lines and rain;
h. That,due to the general act of negligence in the Ministry,jobs awarded to contractors at costs that are disturbingly outrageous are poorly executed and items intended for distribution to members of staff are allowed to deteriorate and rot away without achieving the original aim of either procuring them or receiving them as donations from friendly nations.
Addressing the Press at the end of the tour of the Ministry’ s headquarters, the Honourable Members condemned what they considered a gross mismanagement and abuse of a national edifice that should be a source of pride to Nigerians.
They wondered how a Ministry headquarters that cannot carry out the basic administrative functions like the maintenance of its environment could lay claim to ensuring that the nation’s Foreign Mission was well and thriving.
Consequent upon all the above,the Chairman of the Committee,Rt. Hon.Yusuf Buba Yakub,who informed the Press that the Hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs,Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama,who was conspicuously absent from the entire session, had sent word that he was playing host to some State visitors and could not make it to the venue of the briefing as he had indicated at the time,had called to convey apologies for his absence from the intended briefing.It was, therefore, Rt. Hon. Buba added,the unanimous decision of the members of the Committee that a later date be set aside to receive the Honourable Minister and the entire Management of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the National Assembly.
Special Adviser to the Hon. Chairman of the Committee on Media and Public Affairs.