Stakeholders at a public hearing in Abuja on Thursday supported a bill for an Act to repeal and re-enact the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA).
The public hearing was organised by the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, under the Chairmanship of Rep. Yakub Buba (APC-Adamawa)
In their separate presentations, the stakeholders decried the present state of the institute, saying that it had become a ”shadow of itself.”
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Jeffery Onyeama, commended the lawmakers for looking into the plight of the institute and providing a legislative intervention to reposition the agency.
Represented by Amb. Mobolaji Ogundero, Director, Office of the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Onyeama said that the NIIA was an agency under the ministry which offered great opportunities for the country.
The minister pledged the support of the ministry to the institute and the process to reposition the agency to better fulfil its mandate.
Prof. Eghosa Osaghae, NIIA’s Director-General, said that the world had moved from where it used to be in the 1960s and was now being ruled by the internet, leaving the institute behind.
Osaghae said that the 2021 budgetary capital allocation to the institute was only N46 million, noting that the amount explained the dilapidation of the organisation.
He said that the NIIA was supposed to provide capacity for Nigeria and other African countries, to be able to effectively engage in the global community.
According to him, the institute only had 78 members of staff, out of which only nine, including the director-general, were researchers.
The NIIA boss said that the institute needed special funds to be able to carry out research, meet its mandate and to surpass its glory days.
“We see that this bill will take the NIIA to the level where the world has 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.
Also, Amb. Suleiman Dahiru, Chairman, Association of retired career Ambassadors, said that there was the need for restructuring and to ensure good management of the institute.
Dahiru said that the NIIA used to be a centre of excellence, but had deteriorated due to poor management.
”No law is perfect but the success is largely dependent on the management,” the ambassador said.
He further said that whatever the lawmakers do, the institute should remain an agency of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and that it should not be made to stand alone.
He also said that only the ministry had the authority to direct the foreign policy of the country and making the institute stand alone would not represent a good image of the country.
Dahiru promised to scrutinise the bill along with his colleagues and present further observations to the committee for consideration.
Earlier, Speaker of the House, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, canvassed support for the National Assembly in its bid to reposition the institution.
Gbajabiamila urged the stakeholders to reach down to the depth of their experiences and careers and come up with ideas that would help the parliament achieve its aim.
Meanwhile, Buba said that the committee had called the stakeholders to brainstorm and come out with ideas of repositioning the institute.
The chairman, also sponsor of the bill, said that after pondering on the comatose NIIA, it was time for all stakeholders to do everything possible to re-fire the embers of the former well-respected institute.
He urged members to support the bill and lobby other colleagues for a quick passage and for President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to it before the end of the year.