Nigerians First, Always

Nigerians First, Always

Nigerians First, Always

If you are a Nigerian living abroad, there would be something to celebrate in the charge by Minister of Foreign Affairs, Professor Olugbenga Ashiru, to Nigerian's missions to ensure quick services, though the report was about issuance of visas "to attract foreign investors".

The 48-hour order for that service, we believe, should start with services to Nigerians, who should be first when we make policies.

The obsession with foreign investors has led to negligence of Nigerians. Most of our missions treat Nigerians as irritants. Common services, like renewal of passports, could take months, for instance. Who says Nigerians abroad cannot invest in their country?

Preferential treatment for foreigners would not get us far. Nigerians would be the ones to develop their country, agreed with investments from others who notice Nigerians invest in Nigeria.

"All heads of Nigerian Missions abroad would be required to enter into this contract with me so that Nigerians in Diaspora can be better assured of improved service delivery in a manner that justifies the huge investment in the operations of Nigerian missions abroad," Ashiru said.

If the performance contract achieves this, Nigerians would applaud it.

"Heads of missions are to hold their individual officers accountable for the delivery of agreed outcome such as the number and timeliness of visas and passports issued, the periodicity and quality of reports that are rendered, among other deliverables."

The Minister missed two key points. One is the assurances that government would stop the shabby manner of handling of our missions which has been on for decades.

A performance contract should have clauses about the responsibilities of government to its officers abroad. Where their entitlements are not regularly paid, should Nigerians expect any performance from them?

Another point, the performance contract should reflect is the treatment foreign missions give Nigerians who apply for visas. It is a matter which government has ignored, except in moments when its members are denied visas.

Embassies have adopted the segregated treatment of visa applicants. Government officials and their wards get visas with ease while ordinary Nigerians with genuine reasons for travelling are treated like criminals. The degradation of Nigerians continues abroad too because our government accepts it.

Countries the Minister wants expedited visa issuance to their nationals are the ones treating Nigerians with absolute disdain. Ashiru and his officials - at home - who the performance contract also covers, should object to treatment other countries give Nigerians and reciprocate it, if the discrimination continues.

A performance contract should place interest of Nigerians first, always.


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