Workers at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday staged a peaceful protest to demand for diplomatic passports, clothing allowance, training of officers among others.
The protesting workers, mostly non-foreign service officers, chanted solidarity songs as they moved from one floor of the ministry to another.
At the 8th floor where the Minister’s office is located, the protesters shouted the popular labour song, “solidarity forever, we are fighting for our rights” in top gear, apparently to attract the attention of the minister and other top officials.
The workers, in their “terms of negotiations” were demanding for immediate posting of executive, secretaries and accounts officers to foreign missions.
The said “all admin and finance attaches posted to serve abroad be issued henceforth with diplomatic passports to remove the growing incidence of embarrassment and denial they had hitherto been subjected to with the official passports.”
They demanded that the management should honour last May Day demands on clothing allowance, renewal of standard for conversion of officers and training of junior officers.
When contacted, the Ministry’s permanent secretary, Amb. Sola Enikanolaiye, was not available for comment but a top ministry official, who pleaded not to be named, said the federal government’s decision to rationalise the foreign missions had affected most of the workers.
“What is happening now is institutional reform of the foreign mission, a decision that was taken over a year ago. Now we are trying to implement it. What it means is that we are cutting down the number of missions and staff.
“The ones who are crying are not the professional category. So we are moving the ministry into an era of professionalism that is more efficient in line with global best practices.
“We are trying to cut the number and most affected are the unprofessional ones,” he added.
On clothing and other welfare issues, the official said the ministry had not received its overhead allocation since March 2017 and that had affected the allowance.
He said the ministry had paid N130 million out of the allocation it received for January and February which he said was N299 million for each month.
On diplomatic passport, the official said the agitating workers were not Foreign Service officers and as such could not have diplomatic passport.
“They wanted training, which is okay. We need to train and retrain. But of course it is a function of money. Those are the issues.”
The official, who was visibly embarrassed with the protest, said he was surprised the union demonstrated after they had agreed to meet for negotiations, adding that the protest “embarrassed Nigeria because we have diplomats coming to the ministry.”
Meanwhile, retired diplomats had urged the federal government to stop flooding the Foreign Service with “unwanted and unsuitable” personnel to build and sustain a virile and competent service.
The envoys, under the auspices of Association of Retired Career Ambassadors of Nigeria (ARCAN) said Foreign Service was not an all-comers job, nor was it intended to be a platform for political patronage.
“We feel that we must evolve and adopt a policy that facilitates the recruitment and retention in the Service intellectually strong and smart young men and women who have the potential to grow and blossom into versatile, skilled, capable and wise diplomats, able to vigorously and adroitly protect and advance our national interests on the world stage,” the envoys said.
‘It is disingenuous to accuse everyone who calls for restructuring as trying to break up the county. History tells us that that kind of cheap blackmail will not work as long as the underlying reasons for the agitations persist.’
‘The biggest challenge seems to be that we seem to be allowing moderate voices on this issue to be drowned out by the reckless utterances of a few rabble rousers on all sides who may be tools in the hands of those who do not wish this country well. These are some of the people who arrogate to themselves the toga of spokespersons of our diverse groups.’
-Ex VP Atiku Abubakar on Restructuring.
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