Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, has defended the list of persons nominated for ambassadorship position, saying that the President followed due process in compiling the list.
The Senate had last week suspended any further work on the ambassadorial list which was forwarded to the Senate by President Muhammadu Buhari on June 9.
The senate cited irregularities in the process of selecting the nominees as the basis of the suspension.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyema, and the SGF were summoned by the Senate to give reason for the irregularities.
Speaking with journalists over the weekend, Lawal said that certain states,such as Plateau, Ebonyi, Ondo, Bayelsa, do not have career diplomats hence why no one was appointed for ambassadorship position from the states.
Certainly, we will appear, we are law abiding, 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. We acknowledge also that it is also the prerogative of the Senate to approve or not to approve that nomination.”
“Be that as it may, I must say that we are disappointed that the National Assembly took the decision it did but again we believe that the Senate is made up of very responsible and patriotic Nigerians and the Senate is made up of great people including ex-governors who have governed and known the constitution regarding separation of powers.”
“We believe that the Senate will not do anything that will bring the country to disrepute because right now Nigeria enjoys tremendous goodwill all over the globe. Countries now have high regard and respect for our president, our ministers and all other representatives of government are treated very well and with respect wherever they go. It is important to have ambassadors to sustain this goodwill.”
He noted that ambassadors in foreign countries play a crucial role in attracting investment to their home countries.
“Again, a lot of the travels by the president and government representatives is to attract direct foreign investment into the country and ambassadors are key to sustaining this and ensuring that the goals for these trips are achieved.”
“A third reason why we think these ambassadors are key is because of the phenomenal of global terrorism; almost every country around the world is facing it and all nations of the world are now collaborating with each other to fight this international terrorism. It is important that Nigerians have representatives on the ground who will represent its interest and defend it.”
“We believe that senators being patriotic Nigerians will not want to cause undue hardship and put Nigeria at an undue disadvantage in any regard. While we respect their rights and their views on the issues of ambassadorial nominees, we expect that in coming to whatever decision, they will consider patriotism and put into cognizance the interest of their own country and not probably political considerations or even personal considerations to bring undue hardship and disadvantage to their own country.”
Speaking on the contentious issues of Federal Character principle, Lawal said, “Of course we have read in the newspapers some of their concerns such as federal character and so on. At the last count my recollection is that out of the 47 diplomat nominees, out of 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, 32 states are represented. 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. I believe that every objective analyst will agree with this.”
Speaking on criteria for nomination, he said, “So one of the criteria the person must have is that he must not be less than 30 months to retirement.”
“If you know the processes of nominating and deploying ambassadors you will know that for example, it is highly unlikely that the Senate will be done with it within the next two, three weeks. These ambassadors will need to be presented to the countries where they are going to be posted for checks and confirmation by those countries.
“We cannot dictate the speed at which they will do it, so it could take in all honesty probably six to seven months for an ambassador to fully be cleared and assume his new post. It will take longer still for him to acclimatise and settle down in his work. There have been a subsisting policy not by this regime alone that it will be good for someone who has 30 months to retire not be be posted because then he will just be settling down before retiring, it doesn’t make sense.”