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Friday, 10 June 2016

Nigerian Senate Accidentally Releases Names Of Secret National Intelligence Agency Ambassador Nominees

We learned that the Nigerian Senate, which has constitutional powers to screen nominees for ambassadorial appointments, accidentally released the list of nominees tipped for appointment by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). Several sources in Abuja told our correspondent that the release of the NIA ambassador nominees had potentially breached Nigeria’s strategic national security interests.

Yesterday, we exclusively released all the names and state of origin of ambassadorial nominees to be assigned, upon confirmation by the Senate, to represent Nigeria as envoys abroad. However, the list released by the Senate included additional information, including 10 prospective ambassadorial candidates listed as “Nominee—NIA”.

Our sources confirmed that the ambassadorial nomination list released by the Senate included the identities of would-be NIA candidates.

A source at the Presidency tolthat the original list of ambassadorial nominees received by President Muhammadu Buhari did not specify the names of candidates nominated by the NIA. This source stated that President Buhari was unaware which candidates for ambassadorial appointments were nominated by the NIA. The source added that the decision of where to post the prospective ambassadors would be made after the Senate screening of the picks.

One political expert told our correspondent that, unlike a country like the United States, the Nigerian Senate screens candidates without knowledge of their intended foreign post. “This lack of information about posting is a serious handicap for the senators who are screening nominees. They have no way of determining whether specific nominees have the requisite credentials to effectively represent Nigeria in the countries of their posting,” the source said.

Nigerian Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Onyeama told us that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) submitted the ambassador nominee list to the Presidency. Through a text message, Mr. Onyeama explained that the Presidency “worked with MFA as a team” to finalize the nomination list. Mr. Onyeama also disclosed that the criteria used for selecting the ambassadorial list included career experience in diplomacy and reflection of Nigeria’s federal character.

Femi Adesina, Mr. Buhari’s senior special adviser on media and publicity, told us that any questions about the ambassadors designed “NIA” should be directed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

However, Mr. Onyeama could not explain why the NIA was involved in nominating ambassadorial appointments or when the intelligence agency entered the process. Asked whether he knew the candidates listed as “Nominee—NIA,” Mr. Onyeama told our correspondent that he would only recognize a few of the names on either of the lists because “because many of them have been abroad” carrying out their duties. Mr. Onyeama emphasized again to our correspondent that the ambassador picks were selected based on merit and not any personal ties with ministerial officials.

We requested to speak to a Foreign Affairs Ministry aide with deeper insight into the ambassadorial selection process and the role of the NIA, but the ministry did not provide any such official at the time of our going to press.

In previous reports, we had revealed that were lapses in President Buhari’s protocol office. Our sources indicated that NIA officials who seemed to enjoy the confidence of Mr. Buhari had sidelined seasoned diplomats from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

One source said it was possible that the list sent to the Senate was not the list approved by President Buhari, adding that the incompetence of protocol officials at the Presidency was to blame.

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