Geoffrey Onyeama, the minister of foreign affairs, and Michael Ohiani, the director-general of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), met in Abuja to discuss alternative funding options for maintaining the nation’s missions abroad and creating or acquiring new properties for missions that are being established.
During the opening session, the minister stated that the ministry’s budget issues have become a serious issue because many of its sites are underutilized, underdeveloped, or badly maintained.
He claimed that because the ministry was unable to develop the assets in accordance with the regulations of the host countries, they have been losing value over time and some have even been lost.
“If you go on a tour to some of our facilities what you would see would make you want to cry. So, we have been trying to find some kind of solution to the challenges,” he said.
Funding, personnel reductions, and changes in layouts are just a few of the problems that have left the nation’s properties abroad in such a precarious state, he continued.
Onyeama gave the example of one of Nigeria’s diplomatic buildings that was now located in a commercially active location with a nightclub just in front of it.
“We want to turn those prime properties into money-making ventures, so, we have been looking for partners to come on board. We have to come up with a business model that works and is sustainable, we have to do something about these properties that we own and have an inventory of all our assets,” he said.
The ministry planned to use the PPP initiative’s revenues to maintain its missions and properties abroad, according to Janet Olisa, who is in charge of the Office of the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry and provided more information about the decision.
“We have properties but we don’t want to sell, we need the revenue generated from these properties to take care of the properties that we are using.”
“We want to be able to do a PPP arrangement where the ministry brings in the property while the private investor brings the funds to revitalise the properties,” she said.
The ICRC was established, according to Michael Ohiani, Director General of the organization, to oversee the management and development of such infrastructure utilizing funds from the private sector.
“We have reviewed the situation about our properties abroad and taken into consideration the economic losses, diplomatic embarrassment and security risks, we have come up with ideas to bring them to optimal utilisation,” he said.
According to him, the ICRC performs due diligence on the private sector investors to determine their suitability for any PPP project as part of its regulatory responsibility, which also includes monitoring the entire PPP procurement process.
He assured the minister of the Commission’s commitment to seeing the proposed projects completed and added that a team from the ICRC would be prepared to collaborate with the recently established PPP section to realize the ministry’s objectives.