The Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Foreign Affairs have said that the era of non-payment of workers’ salaries at Nigerian foreign missions was over.
The committees, led by the Chairperson of the Senate Committee, Senator Monsurat Sunmonu, stated this during a fact-finding mission to the Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the UN in New York.
Sunmonu regretted the condition of the members of staff and the infrastructure decay at the missions, but noted that things had improved from their previous state.
She said: “What we had last year was not the same thing as what you’re having right now and this is just the beginning; wouldn’t rest until the best is achieved.”
She commended the leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives for their cooperation saying “if we haven’t got their support, all our hopes and efforts would have been shattered”.
Sunmonu said: “We also thank Baba, Mr President, Muhammadu Buhari and we pray to the Lord Almighty to bring him back safely because of the vision that he has for Nigeria.
“God was just giving him that grace and we are looking forward to his return and we know that God will answer our prayer.”
She noted that the July salaries of the foreign missions had been paid and assured that monthly salaries would now be paid before the middle of the month.
She assured: “Your salaries have been paid up till July. Today, we are going to phone the Minister, and I will tell him that he should just please try and buckle up.
“I can tell you that the reason that there was some delay is because of the transition, the Permanent Secretary just left, he needs to handover to somebody.
“The representative of the Ministry has been cooperating with us, although, if the executive doesn’t cooperate with the legislature is a problem.
“We can have marriage of convenience, as long as we are getting things done. That’s the most important. But this week, by God’s grace, you would have received your alert.”
The Deputy Chairman of the Committee, Senator Shaaba Lafiaji, assured the mission officials that the committees were doing their best to protect their interests and that of the country.
Lafiaji said: “We are out there working and doing everything possible to protect your interest out here and protect the interest of the country as a whole.
“The Chairperson has consistently insisted that the budget that is meant for all the missions should directly go to them and she succeeded in doing that because she stood firm.
“Before then, budgets are lumped together, sent to the Ministry and the Ministry chose and picked and those of you that are out there were always the worse for it.
“We know what you’re going through; we know what sacrifices you’re making; remember you’re making these sacrifices for your country; don’t give up, continue to stand strong for Nigeria.”
Vice-Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee, Ibrahim Dutse, said the fact-finding mission was in line with relevant provisions for the House to oversight at the end of every appropriation.
Dutse said: “Whatever we appropriate to any agency, organization, or department, we need to see exactly what was done with the funds. That’s why we’re in New York, London, Geneva and Washington.
“We came here to check the appropriations we made last year and we are pleased to note that your Mission has complied substantially with most of the appropriated funds.
“The funds were actually assigned for the purposes they were appropriated. So I want to thank the Ambassador and the ministry that things are getting to normal in our missions.”
A member of the House of Representatives Committee, Mukaila Kassim, expressed happiness that things had improved at the foreign missions through the efforts of the two legislative committees.
Kassim said: “I want to tell you that we won’t stop until we see that everything gets to normal. We will make sure that we are there. I know to get there is not easy.
“Even the British system that has been set up for several years, they are still saying that ‘we’re getting there’. So definitely, we’re getting there and we will get there.”
The Deputy Permanent Representative at the Mission, Ambassador Samson Itegboje, praised the committee members for their visit.
Itegboje, however, pointed out that the mission and the workers had continued to endure and work under difficult conditions in the overall interests of the country.