The medical vacation of President Muhammadu Buhari has prevented no less than 10 foreign ambassadors from resuming duties at their respective embassies in the country.
Findings by SUNDAY PUNCH on Saturday indicated that the envoys had been unable to present their letters of credence at the Presidential Villa due to the absence of the President, who has been out of the country for about two months.
However, a government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, told one of our correspondents that the Acting President is available to take up any assignment on behalf of the President.
“I am not aware of any ambassador not being able to start work. The Acting President is available to take on any assignment on behalf of Mr. President,” he said
However, Sunday PUNCH gathered that the ambassadors-designate affected include those of the Republic of Bangladesh, Egypt, Vietnam, Republic of Benin; Mexico; Greece; Togo and Thailand. It was gathered that their letters of credence were specifically addressed to Buhari hence the inability of the ambassadors-designate to present them to Acting President Yemi Osinbajo.
The letter of credence is the instrument by which a head of state exercises his power to appoint ambassadors and ministers to other countries and it is signed by the sending head of state and is usually addressed to the receiving head of state.
The letter is handed over by the diplomatic representative at his first audience with the head of state.
Sources said that one of the envoys, the Egyptian Ambassador-designate to Nigeria, Mr. Assem Hanafi, had been unable to present his credential to Buhari since February 2017 when he came into the country.
It was gathered that his Mexican counterpart, Mr. Alejandro Elizondo, has also not been able to present his credential to Buhari several weeks after he arrived in the country.
It was learnt that the ambassadors-designate had not been given any appointment for the presentation of their credentials to the President on account of Buhari’s vacation in London.
Our correspondents learnt that the inability of the envoys to present their credentials had made it impossible for them to carry out their responsibilities.
A senior official in government confirmed the development but begged for anonymity. He said, “The affected ambassadors-designate have been unable to perform their responsibilities since many of them arrived the country many weeks ago.
“They cannot attend any official programme or speak on behalf of their countries. With their current status, they cannot even use the diplomatic pennant on their official cars because they are not full-fledged ambassadors yet; they are literally stranded.”
But the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, said he had directed the envoys to resume.
He, however, did not say when he gave the directive.
“We have informed them, they may resume duty,” the minister said in an SMS last night.
When confronted with the names of the affected envoys, a source in the Presidency urged our correspondents to cross check with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs if all the processes leading to the presentation of letters of credence to the President had been concluded in the cases of the ambassadors.
“We all know that there are processes involved. It is only when you cross check with the ministry and discover that the processes have been completed that you can start looking at the direction of the Presidency as the possible cause of the delay.
“As it stands, you may need to confirm this in the ministry first,” he explained further.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has deployed 45 non-career ambassadors-designate in their countries of accreditation.
They would, however, not resume until the countries of assignment send the letter of consent accepting their nomination.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Amb. Olusola Enikanolaiye, said the ambassadors-designate would soon resume at their respective countries of assignment once the necessary diplomatic and administrative processes were completed.
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