The Federal Government has explained that President Goodluck Jonathan had to wield the big stick and suspend the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Danjuma Sheni, because this was the second time the country was being embarrassed because diplomacy at that level was not properly managed.
Fielding questions from State House correspondents on why the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Aminu Wali had not been punished alongside the Permanent Secretary, the Minister of National Planning, Abubakar Sulieman, warned against misinterpreting government’s action as to do with transition process.
He said: “What is important here is that whatever decision government has taken should not been seen within the context of the ongoing transition process. As I said government is on course, development that happened in the country these are issues that bothered on our national interest.
“Mr. President and indeed this government is committed to plight of Nigerians anywhere they are. Our policy of protecting and promoting our citizens interest is still very much intact, that perhaps gives a clue to the issue in Indonesia but that is not to say that because as a government we are promoting our national interest, defending our nationals in those country, our nationals should take things for granted and meddle into their internal municipal laws, a kind of contravention thinking that Nigerian government will always be there to support.
“On the issue of the permanent secretary of foreign affairs ministry, it was discussed in council and Mr. President made it very clear that as a President and indeed a government, you don’t allow any of the political functionaries or civil servants to mess this government up.
“The way and manner the South African/Nigerian subtle face off was handled by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in particular the suspended permanent secretary did not go down well with Mr. President and indeed his government and as a government we took a decision to suspend the permanent secretary pending investigation as to what transpired.
“Already, it was obvious that diplomacy at that level was not well managed. What we have in South Africa is not High Commissioner, is Charge D’ Affairs. If the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is coming out to provide a concept or a structure or a nomenclature not in existence, it may amount to annihilation on the part of the Nigerian people and the Nigerian government.
“So investigation is still on as to the management of diplomacy at that level between Nigeria and South Africa. I want to assure you from the President’s revelation that our President and President Zuma of South Africa are talking, they are on talking terms and the various nagging issues that gave a semblance of fisticuffs have been resolved.
“But at the level of domestic administrative issues the government is handling that. And I want to believe in sooner a time you will get to know the extent to which that issue generated, dynamics of the issue and the resolution of the issue at the long run”.
The Minister of Information, Patricia Akwashiki, on her part said, “The only person who has the right to recall an ambassador is the President and there was bridge in that and that clearly is the singular reason the permanent secretary is on suspension”.
On why the minister of foreign affairs has not been held accountable since this is the second embarrassment he was causing the nation, Akwashiki said, “I don’t think is difficult to hold him. The way you put it was exactly the way the President summarised the event that has happened beginning with phone call to the King of Morocco or no phone call. It is in line with that that the president has now wielded the big stick by suspending the permanent secretary because it has happened.
“The minister wasn’t even in the country; he was out of the country on an international programme when it happened. The minister is the minister; the permanent secretary is the accounting officer in the ministry so the stick had to fall on him”.