By Osigbesan Sultan Luqman
EDITOR, The Dream Daily
The Federal Government has noted with “deep concern” that some senior foreign diplomats currently serving in Nigeria “are in the habit of criss-crossing the country and making inflammatory and reckless statements against the government on matters of domestic policy,” stressing that “this is unacceptable interference in Nigeria’s internal affairs.”
Consequently, the government advised such envoys “to respect the sensitivity of Nigerians and the mood of the times.”
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Aminu Bashir Wali, stated this in his address at a briefing of the Diplomatic Corps in Abuja on the control of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Nigeria on Friday, October 31.
Ambassador Wali assured the diplomats that the Federal Government was making appropriate preparations to hold a “credible, free and fair” election in 2015. He urged the diplomats to assist the country, especially the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the security agencies and local media practitioners towards making the 2015 General Elections a success.
He also asked the envoys to task the media in their home countries to be fair in their reportage of the upcoming elections and other reports about Nigeria.
The minister also expressed the country’s concern over the continued “deliberate policies of stigmatisation and discrimination against Nigerians” despite the country being certified Ebola free by the World Health Organisation (WHO) after it successfully handled the index case brought into the country and its fallouts.
Wali listed the countries “targeting and discriminating against our nationals” as Bahrain, Cote D’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroun, Cuba, Gabon, China, Egypt, Hong-Kong, Kuwait, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Zambia, Mauritania, Sao Tome & Principe, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, Namibia, Seychelles and South Sudan.
During the interactive sessions that followed the minister’s address, some of the country he mentioned took turn to offer explanations on the development. The South Sudan envoy said his country took the measures, including closing its borders, as a matter of precaution prompted by the fear that the country could not contain EVD if it struck there. South Sudan assured that the precautionary measures have since been scaled back to the barest minimum after WHO had certified Nigeria free of Ebola.
The Namibian envoy noted that because most countries of the world were not ready for EVD at the time it appear on the scene, “many mistakes” were made by “all country” in their reaction to keep the virus out of their areas. He observed that since the claim was that EVD was first discovered in monkey population in African forests, African scientists should work together and find a cure for it from “our forests.”
Envoy of Trinidad and Tobago said while EVD had presented a “huge challenge” to the international community, the discriminatory measures in his country were not just against Nigeria but all West Africa, stressing that his countrymen and women take West Africa to be a whole country, and not a sub-region with many nations.
He urged Nigeria “to take proactive approach” to counter the propaganda against Nigerians over Ebola.
All envoys who spoke at the session assured the minister that the stigmatisation and discrimination measures have now be dropped in their home countries for WHO-recommended preventive and treatment measures.
‘Nigeria Must Take Credit For EVD Success”
The Indian envoy to Nigeria thanked Wali for the briefing but observed that Nigeria appeared reluctant to demand and receive due credit for being the first country to become Ebola free, wondering why this is so.
He urged the Federal Government to produce a monogram, radio and television documentaries to explain how it successfully tackled EVD and make these educational materials available to the rest of the World to fight Ebola.
Similarly, other diplomats at the well-attended briefing commended Nigeria’s successful efforts on Ebola and urged the country to share its experience and expertise with other nations, especially those still under the scourge of Ebola.
Ambassador Wali stressed that Nigeria was not out to accuse any country of discrimination against its nationals, but stressed that closing borders and stigmatisation would not help any country against Ebola. Instead, he advised that like Nigeria, other countries should only increase surveillance for Ebola at their borders in line with the WHO guideline.
The minister added that Nigeria and other countries with no current case of Ebola are not truly free of the virus until the whole world is free of it.
He disclosed that as part of its assistance to others in the sub-region against Ebola, Nigeria has donated $300 million to ECOWAS and had set up a centre where other West African countries can send their personnel to be trained on how to fight the virus.
Boko Haram, Chibok Girls Abduction On Diplomats Mind
A diplomat from the European Union (EU) Delegation to Nigeria asked the minister to provide an update on the Federal Government’s negotiation with Boko Haram insurgents and the release of over 200 girls abducted by the terrorists from a secondary school in Chibok, Borno State.
In reply, Ambassador Wali assured that the negotiation with Boko Haram was ongoing, stressing that it would be “pre-emptive” of him to say that the Chibok girls will be released “today or tomorrow.”
The Nigerian foreign minister added that the attacks being carried out despite the ceasefire announcement were likely being done by factions of Boko Haram who want to keep on fighting despite their leadership’s involvement in on-going peace negotiation.