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What does a Senior Special Assistant on Diaspora Affairs do?

President Muhammadu Buhari appointed Abike Dabiri-Erewa his “Senior Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora” yesterday. There were other appointments, but this one stuck out.

Since taking over in May last year, in the midst of an acute drop in government revenues due to low oil prices, the Buhari administration has been banging on about the need to cut costs. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said in October: “The greatest challenge to us is controlling ballooning recurrent expenditure and freeing up resources for growth-related capital expenditure. We need to cut overheads too; we can’t spend as we used to spend”.

Buhari said also in October: “There used to be forty-two ministers but I think we can barely keep half of that now because we cannot afford it. We are reducing the number of ministries we can’t afford to pay. Where is the money?”

That was then. It looks like money’s no object now.

Nigeria has a foreign minister, Geoffrey Onyeama. He is supported by Khadija Bukar Ibrahim, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. Those political appointees are supported by an army of bureaucrats at the ministry and hundreds of others at foreign missions abroad.

In an age of cost-cutting, what value does an SSA for the president on “Foreign Affairs and Diaspora” add? Dabiri-Erewa seems to be a formidable woman. She represented Ikorodu at the House of Representatives and was Chair of the House Committee on Diaspora Affairs. There is nothing to show that her time in that committee yielded any benefits for Nigeria.

It is very likely that her current appointment would be just as fruitless for Nigeria and costly too in the current climate. It would be interesting to see her job description to establish the yardstick Nigerians could use to establish if she delivered any benefit by the time she leaves office.

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