Jonathan Suspends Foreign Affairs Perm Sec over S’African Spat
Written by Taiwo Adediran on April 29, 2015
• ICC confirms receipt of petition against Zulu King
• SA opposition calls for amicable resolution of row with Nigeria
Following the controversy that trailed the purported recall of Nigeria’s envoy to South Africa, and the denial by the presidency, a Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Danjuma Nanpon Sheni, has been suspended.
The announcement on the recall of Nigeria’s ambassador to South Africa led to a scathing reaction from the latter’s foreign affairs ministry on Sunday and a personal jab at President Goodluck Jonathan on the Boko Haram insurgency and the kidnapping of the Chibok girls.
A presidency source who pleaded anonymity, said that Jonathan was neither informed nor put in the picture before the Foreign Affairs Ministry announced the recall of the nation’s envoy to South Africa resulting from the xenophobic attacks in that country.
The source said that at a meeting the president held with the Foreign Affairs Minister Aminu Wali and other top government officials, which lasted till early hours of yesterday, Jonathan was said to have been extremely angry over the embarrassment the ministry had caused Nigeria diplomatically.
Last month, the ineptitude of the Foreign Affairs Ministry was brought to the fore when a non-existent phone call was said to have taken place between the King of Morocco and Jonathan which was refuted first by the monarch and later by the president.
The development resulted in a diplomatic spat between the two countries and recall of the Moroccan ambassador to Nigeria.
The presidency added that with the latest development, Jonathan would have sacked Wali but for the closeness of the expiration of his administration’s tenure.
The suspended permanent secretary, according to the source, was first issued a query before he was suspended, while another permanent secretary was directed to replace him with immediate effect by the president.
The presidency source said: “President Goodluck Jonathan has suspended the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Amb. Danjuma Nanpon Sheni for causing the country this embarrassment.
“In this age of diplomatic dispatches, you don’t need to recall or invite anyone before you ask questions. He was also queried.
“The minister himself would have been fired, but was let off the hook because we have just one month to go. In less than two months, they had embarrassed the government.
“They also made a mess of the Morocco saga. They were issuing statements without the president’s approval.”
In a related development, Wali yesterday said the Senate resolution urging the federal government to recall Nigeria’s High Commissioner to South Africa over the xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals in the country was unnecessary.
Wali, who made this remark while appearing before the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, was accompanied to the meeting by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs II, SenatorMusiliu Obanikoro as well as the acting High Commissioner to South Africa, Martin Cobham and Consulate General, Mrs. Uche Ajulu-Okeke.
According to him, Nigerians were not targeted in the attacks, adding that the degree of attacks suffered by Nigerians were minimal and hence, recalling Nigeria’s ambassador to South Africa because of the development would be too harsh.
Wali, who restated that Nigeria had not recalled its envoy to South Africa, as erroneously reported at the weekend, said the envoy was only invited for consultations, explaining that recalling the high commissioner at this moment would be unhealthy because his presence was in the Southern African country was necessary to ensure the safety of Nigerians.
According to him, only two Nigerians were wounded, five shops belonging to some of them looted, two of their families were displaced while six women and eight Nigerian children were affected.
Wali also defended South African government, saying the attacks were not state sponsored, and the government had deployed the military to assist the police in bringing the matter under control.
This effort, he said, had led to the arrest of some suspects.
He also said South African President, Jacob Zuma, had publicly condemned the attacks as he insisted that South Africa needed the support of Nigeria having emerged from apartheid only 20 years ago and was not yet strong economically, even though it looks strong politically.
He added that it was necessary for Nigeria to continue to play its role in the continent as Africa’s big brother.
Furthermore, Wali said if Zimbabweans, Malawians and Ethiopians who were deliberated targeted in the attacks had not recalled their envoys, it would be too hasty for Nigeria to do so.
Wali who said the handling of the matter so far had been satisfactory, added that it was also necessary to await the outcome of the probe of Zulu King, Goodwill Zwelithini, who was said to have incited the attacks by the South Africa Human Rights Commission before attempting to take him to International Criminal Court (ICC).
Also speaking, Obanikoro said the Zulu king had addressed a press conference during which he invited many envoys in South Africa including Cobham and denied inciting the attacks.
He also disclosed how he met with South Africa’s envoy to Nigeria, Lulu Mguni, whom he said apologised and attributed the problem to the social crisis and unemployment in the country, and promised to ensure that adequate compensation is paid to Nigerians affected by the attacks.
Obanikoro also said the development had forced South Africa to set up a five-man committee consisting of only ministers with a view to ensuring that the problem of unemployment, which was suspected to have led to the crisis is addressed.
Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has acknowledged receiving the petition from the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) on the xenophobic attacks against Nigerians and other African citizens in South Africa.
Receipt of the petition was disclosed in a statement yesterday by SERAP’s Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni.
SERAP had in a petition on April 23, which was sent to the court requested the prosecutor Mrs. Fatou Bensouda to use her “good offices and position to investigate allegations of hate speech by the Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, resulting in the killing, violence and discrimination against Nigerians and other African citizens living in South Africa, as well as the complicity/negligence of the country’s law enforcement agencies to prevent these crimes against civilian population”.
In response, the ICC in a letter dated April 28 and signed by M.P. Dillon, Head of Information & Evidence Unit of the Office of the Prosecutor said: “The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court acknowledges receipt of your documents. This communication has been duly entered in the Communications Register of the Office. We will give consideration to this communication, as appropriate, in accordance with the provisions of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
“As soon as a decision is reached, we will inform you, in writing, and provide you with reasons for this decision.”
However, South Africa’s official opposition – Democratic Alliance (DA) – has urged the country and Nigeria and to engage amicably to mend the strained relations between both countries, reported News 24 yesterday.
“The Democratic Alliance (DA) would like to urge both the South African and Nigerian Governments not to strain already delicate relations and to engage constructively with each other on the issues leading to the High-Commissioner and General-Consul of Nigeria being called home for discussion to Nigeria,” said Sandy Kalyan, DA Shadow Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation.
Kaylan added, “Inviting the High Commissioner and the General-Consul back home is, in diplomatic terms, unusual and only done in extreme circumstances as a last resort. This will have placed further strain on already difficult relations between our two countries.”
The official said at the next sitting of the Pan-Africa Parliament in South Africa, she would table a motion to address this issue.
“I urge both parties to not engage in tit-for-tat tactics but to rather put the interests of both countries and their citizens first and to engage meaningfully on how they may improve relations between two of the continent’s economic power houses,” said Kaylan.