The federal government of Nigeria is defending President Muhammadu Buhari’s lopsided ambassadorial list by saying that four states in the country do not have any indigene qualified to be named an ambassador.
Babachir Lawal, secretary to the government of the federation, in an attempt to push back on the Nigerian senate’s decision to stop the screening of Buhari’s ambassadorial list held an interactive session with journalists over the weekend.
While speaking with members of the Nigerian press, Lawal said that that there were criteria set by the government to pick the nominees and that four states – Plateau, Ebonyi, Ondo, Bayelsa – without nominees did not have career diplomats in the foreign service.
The secretary to the federation maintained that President Buhari followed due process in drawing up a list of 47 ambassadorial nominees.
Last Wednesday, the senate had suspended the screening of 47 nominees for ambassador whose names President Muhammadu Buhari sent for confirmation on June 9 citing irregularities in the process of selecting the names.
The senate also summoned the foreign affairs minister, Geoffrey Onyeama to explain the said irregularities which included the lack of federal character in the ambassadorial list and the fact that the four states didn’t have a nominee.
Lawal said the issues raised by the senate were “minor”, and that they could have been settled over a telephone call but that he would also appear before the Nigerian senate to defend the decision of the president. “Certainly, we will appear; we are law-abiding,” he said.
“We respect the national assembly and we respect the laws of the land. One thing however is clear; the constitution makes it clear that it is the prerogative of the president to nominate ambassadors and the criteria he will use to do so is also the constitutional right of the president. Whatever criteria he chooses to use is constitutional.
“I must say that we are disappointed that the national assembly took the decision, but at the last count, my recollection is that out of the 47 diplomat nominees, the 36 states were represented.
“Out of 36 states and the federal capital territory, while the constitution preaches federal character, it does not say that every state must be represented in any appointment, except of course in the case of ministers. Not in all other appointments, so the spirit of the constitution has been fully satisfied by having 32 ambassadors out of 36 plus one (FCT). I believe that every objective analyst will agree with this.”
“There are criteria and qualifications that are required to post you to go and represent Nigeria, not just because while in the foreign service or the civil service you were able to make grade level 16 or 17. Quite a number of qualifications are needed. So even if you make that retirement criteria, service length or rank criteria, there are other criteria,” he said.
Lawal expressed regrets that four states didn’t make it one way or the other, but maintained that it was “not necessarily on the criteria of seniority”.
The implications of Buhari’s nomination list is that educationally advantaged Ondo, Bayesla, and Ebonyi states would have no ambassador while educationally disadvantaged states in the North West, especially, where Buhari comes from have more than a fair share of “qualified” individuals for the role of ambassador.