Despite having Nigerian officials at the top of the UN system, including a deputy Secretary-General, Abuja has not yet paid its dues.
The international system is under siege from an aggressive US administration, and needs every nation to pull it’s weight.
Nigeria is yet to pay up its assigned annual contribution to the United Nations some ten months into 2019.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has admitted that the body might not be able to pay staff salaries next month.
Cash-strapped Zimbabwe and most recently, conflict-riven Syria are two of the 129 of the UN’s 193-member states to have paid their 2019 dues as of October 7.
- This amounts to $1.99bn, equivalent to 70% of the total assessment for the year, with a balance of $1.3 billion still needed to offset expenses of the body.
- According to Guterres, this is probably “the worst cash crisis facing the United Nations in nearly a decade. The Organization runs the risk of depleting its liquidity reserves by the end of the month and defaulting on payments to staff and vendors.”
He urged defaulting countries to pay urgently and in full. “This is the only way to avoid a default that could risk disrupting operations globally”, his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Tuesday.
- “To date, we have averted major disruptions to operations”, Dujarric lamented, adding that “these measures are no longer enough….“we are now driven to prioritize our work on the basis of the availability of cash, thus undermining the implementation of mandates decided by inter-governmental bodies.”
Things are so bad that Guterres had to enforce large spending cuts at its affiliates worldwide beginning this January or it would have been unable to organise the 74th General Assembly debate and the high-level meetings last month.
Short on cash, big on aesthetics
Nigeria suffers its own difficult debt profile as it continues to pursue an overhaul of its infrastructure nationwide and service outstanding loan repayments amidst declining oil revenues.
But Nigeria’s failure to pay contrasts with its strong presence in the US system.
Abuja sent a multitude of delegates to this year’s UN General Assembly sessions, led by foreign affairs minister Godfrey Onyeama even as President Muhammadu Buhari addressed the gathering of world leaders in late September.
- At least three governors and half a dozen ministers were on the trip accompanied by a retinue of aides and carry-ons racking up thousands of dollars in estacodes (travel allowances).
Two Nigerian nationals are also currently among the organisation’s most high-ranking officials including
- UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed
- The current president of the UN General Assembly, Tijjani Bande whose yearlong tenure runs from September this year to September 2020.
Big (Bad) Brother
Nigeria is following in the footsteps of large states like the USA, Brazil, Israel and Iran, who are also delinquent.
Interestingly, of the opening set of five speakers at the UN General Debate this year, only Turkey and Egypt have paid up.
- According to the Financial Regulation 3.5 of the UN, member states ought to pay their contributions to its budget within a 30-day period at the beginning of every year – 31st January 2019, in this case.
- By January 31 this year, only 34 countries had followed through with their financial commitments.
- The amount allocated to each country is decided by The General Assembly, on the advice of the Committee on Contributions which takes into consideration the gross national income, population, and debt burden.
The US is the largest contributor to the global body’s budget, doling out 22% of the annual budget, now capped at $2.5 billion in recent years thanks to American law.
- As things stand, the US government currently owes $381 million for prior regular budgets and $674 million for the 2019 regular budget.
Why this is important: Humanitarian, political and social services across the world, including crisis hotspots like northeastern Nigeria, could grind to a halt if the debtors refuse to pay. Penny wise, pound foolish?