Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Khadija Bukar Abba Ibrahim

Nigeria’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Mrs Khadija Bukar Abba Ibrahim has said her ministry is financially handicapped and unable to provide necessary protection and welfare assistance to Nigerians living in South Africa and other countries.

Addressing the House Committee on Diaspora Matters in Abuja on Monday in the wake of resumed xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa, the minister said until the 2017 budget proposals which are still awaiting approval were made, funds were never allocated to Nigeria’s foreign missions for protection and welfare assistance to Nigerians living abroad.

She said: “It is estimated that there are up to 15 million Nigerians abroad. It is therefore a herculean task for the ministry to provide protection and welfare assistance when no provision was made for that purpose in the budget. Other countries make financial provision for repatriation of remains, lost income and loss of passport, funeral expenses, medical bills, among others, which our missions can’t due to  paucity of funds. Yet, Nigerians expect, unrealistically, missions to offer these services.”

She revealed that the sum of 400 million naira (about $1.3 million) was provided in this year’s budget for foreign missions to address such challenges.

Even so, she said: “This is clearly inadequate to cover the share volume and complexity of the consular challenges facing Nigerian missions abroad including the strategic engagement with Nigerians in the Diaspora.”

Mrs Bukar Abba Ibrahim revealed the disturbing figure of 15,316 as the number of Nigerians who were imprisoned abroad as at December 2015. The ministry is still waiting for the 2016 figures to be collated.

Some of these Nigerians, she said, were on death row, having been sentenced for various crimes. In Indonesia alone, 13 Nigerians, according to her, were awaiting execution for drug related offences.

Ironically, as the minister also revealed, remittances from Diaspora Nigerians in 2015 amounted to over $21 billion.