Briefing newsmen after last week’s Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, Finance Minister, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, announced to the nation, the intention of the Federal Government to begin a process to pull the country out of at least 90 international organisations. She revealed that at the meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, the country’s huge debt to those organisations was discussed.
To ensure an uncomplicated pull out and minimise any unforseen circumstance, a committee was set up and given two weeks to review an earlier recommendation that the country should retain its membership in 220 organisations instead of the current 310. The country has a backlog of $120 million in membership dues and other financial commitments. The annual commitment of Nigeria by virtue of its membership in the organisations is $70 million. This is huge and it is common sensical to apply some house cleaning exercise.
This process is the right step in the right direction. Therefore, we commend the Federal Government for demonstrating some prudence, and trying to rationalise the country’s membership in those organisations. Indeed the period we are in justifies every cost cutting measure, especially with regard to membership of organisations that are of no benefit to Nigeria and her citizens. The Finance Minister has kept faith with her financial skills in the area of blocking loopholes. Her commitment to ensure more prudent use of public resources is admirable.
International politics makes countries to join all manners of organisations and sign all manners of protocols and agreements. In some cases, organisations that do not offer any financial benefits may be of strategic importance. In the same vain, we are aware that in time past Nigerian government also did have a lot of money. In fact we once boasted that our problems was how to spend the money. Part of strategic alliance and promoting national interest of a given country is to show off its wealth or its strength. Nigeria at a point had wealth in both human and material resources and went very deep into joining and funding all manners of funny organisations to feel belonged.
But things have since changed. This is not the time that Nigeria in a bid to assist African countries sold crude at cheaper rates. That time meant we got entangled into all manners of organisations. Also in the era of globalisation, post cold war era, spread of democracy and regional integration, it is not surprising that we belong to as many as 300 foreign bodies. It is not a surprise but it is alarming that our annual dues gulps about $70 million. That is a huge sum! Consequently, we have to put our money where our mouth is. We need to look at these organisations again and prune. Because having joined, since government is a continuum and those previous commitments must be honoured, if they must be repudiated, reasons must be given, and the normal processes must be followed.
Thankfully, lack has driven us to ask questions. But we must not cut the nose to spite the face. The work of the committee must be open and transparent. Stakeholders in international relations, diplomacy, history and law must be involved. In fact the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) together with the ministry of foreign affairs must be involved. We should not because of cost saving measures yank ourselves off promising international organisations.
It must be noted that pulling out of 90 international organisations seems like pulling out from a lot of places. But membership of 220 organisations looks even more burdensome if not an over-reach. Is the country not over-extending itself and assuming more responsibility than is vital to its interests? Even so, it appears the over 200 bodies that shall be retained remain on the high side. It will be good if a comprehensive review by this committee will lead to a further cut to between 100 and 120 bodies. That is a fit and proper number for Nigeria as at today. We appreciate our big brother role in Africa, but there comes a time, you have to tell yourself the truth. The time is now. Nigeria must be citizen centric in her avowed drive towards strategic importance in the international system. By this effort we are not only cutting cost, we are equally saving face. What is there belonging to an organisation that you have not paid its dues?