The federal government on wednesday set up an inter-ministerial committee with a responsibility of reviewing Nigeria’s membership of 310 international organisations and also determining those whose membership should be retained or withdrawn in a bid to cut cost of governance and save the country from the embarrassment of unpaid financial obligations.
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The development was made known by the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, while briefing State House correspondents at the end of Wednesday’s Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Adeosun said the review had become necessary in view of Nigeria’s failure to meet its annual financial obligations to such international organizations.
She said an earlier committee had recommended that Nigeria’s membership of 220 out of the 310 bodies be retained, while the country should withdraw its membership of 90 others, adding that the first committee had put the arrears of Nigeria’s indebtedness to such organisations at $122 million but her ministry disagreed, insisting that the amount was more.
She put Nigeria’s total financial obligations to such international organisations annually, which FEC now seeks to reduce at $70 million.
“Basically, Nigeria is a member of 310 international organisations and a committee was set up to actually review the rationale for our continued membership of such a large number of organisations particularly in the light of the fact that in many cases, we were not paying our financial obligations and subscriptions which was causing embarrassment to Nigeria and our image abroad.
“In particular, it was discussed that there were some commitments to international organisations made by former presidents which were not cash-backed and so, when our delegations turn up at those organisations, it becomes embarrassing and that was what informed the setting up of the new inter-ministerial committee.
“The initial committee made the recommendations that of the 310 organisations, 220 should be retained while membership should be withdrawn from the rest.
“But the council directed that more work should be done particularly since there was a dispute as to how much is owed.
“The first committee has a figure of about $122 million but we are clear from the Ministry of Finance that it is far more than that.
Adeosun also said the disagreement resulted in FEC’s directive that another committee should further investigate the exact amount and make its final report to the council in two weeks.
“So the directive of the council is that we should go and reconcile those figures and come back to council and have a payment plan and avoid Nigeria being embarrassed internationally.
The minister also disclosed that following the trend, FEC had come up with stringent measures on the status of individuals who could make financial commitments on behalf of Nigeria, pointing out that some of those who had made such financial commitments on behalf of Nigeria in the past were directors and ambassadors.
“Also, a circular needs to be issued on who can commit Nigeria because what we identified was that in some cases, it might be a director or an ambassador attending a meeting who committed a subscription on behalf of Nigeria and of course the international organisations begin to chase us for the money.
“So we’ve tightened the procedure for committing Nigeria to donations to international organisations. The inter-ministerial committee is due to come back in the next two weeks with the final figures on the findings and the ministers will then look at those recommendations of international organisations that we want to withdraw from and we will finalise work on this issue.
“Basically, this is about prudence and value for money. Nigeria doesn’t have to be a member of every single organisation but those that we are members of, we have made the decision at FEC that we must pay our obligations.
“We must prioritise our obligations as regards the nation’s image… The subscription is $70 million per annum and there are lots of arrears,” she said.