Nigeria considers closing Embassies


Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari is considering closing some embassies abroad, his office said on Tuesday, as public finances have been hit hard by a slump in vital oil revenues. A committee will review all Nigerian embassies to determine those that are essential, the presidency said in a statement. It quoted Buhari as telling foreign ministry officials there was no point keeping embassies “all over the world with dilapidated facilities and demoralised staff.”

“Let’s keep only what we can manage. We can’t afford much for now. There’s no point in pretending,” Buhari said. With oil accounting for more than 90 percent of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings and about 70 percent of government revenues, the fall in crude prices and output has hurt finances and the naira currency, with foreign investors pulling out of its stock and bond markets.

The weakening currency has fuelled inflation and driven up the cost of food and other essential imports. Buhari took office in May after being elected on promises to fight the endemic corruption and mismanagement of public funds that he believes has led to $150bn being stolen from state coffers over the past decade.

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s military said on Tuesday it had made a number of arrests after intercepting a vehicle allegedly carrying fuel and drugs for Boko Haram Islamists waging a six-year-old insurgency in the northeast.

Following, directives to troops in the northeast for a painstaking search of motorists and cargoes, troops of the 3 Division Nigerian army have intercepted and arrested some kingpins and foot soldiers of suppliers of Boko Haram terrorists with hard drugs and other stimulants,” the army said in a statement.

It said the seizure was made on Tuesday between the towns of Depchi and Geidam in Yobe state, a hotbed of the Boko Haram insurgency. Besides drugs the suspects were also transporting fuel, the statement said, without saying how many people had been arrested. The army claimed the alleged drugs find as proof the insurgents bloody quest to establish a hardline Islamic state in northeast Nigeria was a sham.

The use of drugs is prohibited in Islam, except for medicinal purposes. Boko Haram’s insurgency has killed an estimated 15,000 people and displaced some 2.1 million others since 2009. l Nigeria’s military has banned the use of horses in the northeastern state of Borno to stop deadly raids by Boko Haram gunmen, a regional military spokesperson told AFP on Tuesday.

Militants on horseback have in recent weeks attacked remote communities in the troubled region, as an extensive military offensive to rout the insurgents intensified. “Military authorities have banned the use of horses in the entire Borno state to stave off Boko Haram terrorist attacks,” said the military spokesperson for Borno, Colonel Tukur Gusau.

The ban was imposed after talks with the state government and council of traditional chiefs, he added. Gusau said the military surge in the region had thrown the Islamic State group-allied rebels into “disarray”, cutting off their supply lines, including for fuel. Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has made crushing the six-year insurgency his priority and in August gave his new military top brass three months to end the violence. That prompted intensive ground and air offensives against Boko Haram positions.