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Geoffrey Onyeama, Nigeria's Foreign Minister

Foreign Minister Onyeama slams Abike Dabiri-Erewa: “You don’t speak for Nigeria”

As Fela Kuti would have said “confusion break bone” on whether Nigerians should shelve plans to travel to the US on the back US President Donald Trump’s executive order banning travel to the US from a handful of Muslim-majority countries.

Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Nigerians in Diaspora, had yesterday issued a statement informing Nigerians with valid travel documents to shelve plans to visit the US because there was a risk there could be sent back. The statement advised that only those on essential travel should go to the US, until the Trump administration’s immigration policies became clearer.

The statement read: “In the last few weeks, the office has received a few cases of Nigerians with valid multiple-entry US visas being denied entry and sent back to the Nigeria. In such cases reported to the office, such affected persons were sent back immediately on the next available flight and their visas were cancelled.”

Dabiri-Erewa, dabbling in someone else’s job

But today Foreign Minister came down hard on Dabiri-Erewa saying her advice should be ignored and she had no authority to speak for Nigeria on foreign affairs. Onyeama said the only authorities to speak for Nigeria on international relations are the foreign ministry and the Presidency. Anyone else was not giving “definitive” advice and the latest advice from Erewa was “incorrect” and should be ignored.

He said he was in touch with the Nigerian High Commissioner in the US and the US Ambassador to Nigeria and there were no reports of Nigerians being turned back. Onyeama added that it was “business as usual” for Nigerians with valid travel documents visiting the US.

This very public rebuke of Dabiri-Erewa by Onyeama showed how the current administration is not joined up and highlights issues raised when she was appointed. We asked: What does a Senior Special Assistant on Diaspora Affairs do? What is the purpose of the role when there are two ministers in the foreign ministry, there is a permanent secretary there, we have high commissions abroad with heads and loads of staff.

This is clearly not a real job and Dabiri-Erewa, in trying to justify her existence, has strayed into international relations, that really shouldn’t be her business. Her job may serve no purpose, but it has highlighted the disjointed and dysfunctional nature of an administration that claimed to be intent on cutting the costs of government, while it was creating meaningless political positions.

Incidentally, Senior Special Assistant Dabiri-Erewa also has a Special Assistant on Media. Ignoring for a minute the costs of maintaining all these people without a proper job, any efficient media officer should have known that it is prudent to clear public statements with relevant stakeholders. Dabiri-Erewa and her media assistant clearly didn’t bother to inform the foreign ministry on a matter of international relations.

She ended up causing embarrassment for herself and the government that she allegedly works for.

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