By Gift Chapi Odekina
The House of Representatives on Thursday, noted that the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs, (NIIA) be remodel to a higher degree awarding Institute.
Chairman, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Rt Hon Yusuf Buba Yakub, (APC Adamawa) made this assertion in his peresentation during Public Hearing on BILL for an ACT to Repeal and Re- Enact the Nigeria Institute of International Affiars with stakeholders at the National Assembly Complex on Thursday.
The NIIA, described as one of the strongest bulwarks of the nation’s foreign policy engagement with the outside world and a think-tank on foreign affairs, was established shortly after the 1st October Independence, celebration in 1961.
Hon Yakub said: “Essentially, I had established that there is the need to remodel the NIIA into a higher degree- awarding Institute, especially in the thinking that, many of you in the business of foreign policy and diplomacy, who were nutured in the best traditions of foreign service, still so much, give back to a nation that gave you something to carry for a lifetime.
“In line with global best practises, it is our conviction that, a higher degree awarding Institute will make for greater productivity.
This will attract neccessary number of students that can, among other reasons, afford the Institute to generate revenue in the face of the level of paucity of funds that we currently witness on our country today.
In his remarks while declaring the public hearing open, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep Femi Gbajabiamila, represented by Peterson Akpatason, Deputy Majority Leader, canvassed support for the National Assembly in its bid to rebuild the institution.
He urged the stakeholders to reach down to the debt of their experiences and careers and come up with ideas that would help the parliament achieve its aim.
The stakeholders in their separate presentations, decried the present state of the institute saying that it had become a shadow of itself.
Minister, Foreign Affairs, Mr Jeffery Onyeama, commended the lawmakers for looking into the plight of the institute and providing legislative intervention to reposition the agency.
Represented by Amb. Mobolaji Ogundero, a Director in the Office of the Permanent Secretary, Onyeama said the NIIA is an agency under the ministry which offers great opportunity for the country.
The minister pledged support of the ministry for the institute, and process to reposition the agency to better fulfill its mandate.
The Director-General of the institute, Prof Eghosa Osaghae nited that the world has moved from where it used to be in the 1960s, and now being ruled by internet, leaving the institute behind.
He said that the 2021 budgetary capital allocation for the institute was only N46 million adding that the amount, explains the dilapidation of the institute.
According to him, the institute only have 78 members of staff of which only nine including the DG are researchers, we cant carry out our mandate.
“We see that this bill will take the NIIA to the level where the world have not seen, to a level where our founding fathers will rejoice in heaven.
“This committee said it is time for dry bones to raise again, not only rise again, but surpass the bones it used to be,’’ he said.
The Chairman, Association of Retired Career Ambassadors (ARCAN) Amb Sulieman Dahiru said that there was need for restructuring and ensure good management of the institute.
He said that the NIIA used to be a centre of excellence but was run down by poor management saying that no law is perfect but the success is largely dependent on the management.
Chairman of the committee, Rep Buba said the committee had called the stakeholders to brainstorm and come out with ideas of repositioning the institute.
Buba who also, sponsored the bill said after a long period of pondering on the fallen NIIA, it was time for all stakeholders to do everything possible, to re-fire the embers of the former well-respected institute.
The chairman urged members to support the bill and lobby other colleagues for a quick passage of the President Muhammadu Buhari to assent, before the end of the year.