“We want to present the strongest protest in that statement.”
The Federal Government on Thursday summoned the Zimbabwean Head of Chancery over remarks credited to President Robert Mugabe, which depicted Nigerians as very corrupt people.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the Zimbabwean Head of Chancery, Stanley Kunjeku, in Abuja to formally lodge a protest.
The Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Martin Uhomoibhi, described Mr. Mugabe’s comment as “vitriolic and denigrating on Nigeria and Nigerians’’.
“We were very concerned when we read that on the occasion of the 90th birthday of President Mugabe, he took off considerable time to vituperate about Nigeria.
He said Mugabe’s comments reflected “what we consider to be a strong aversion of our country, remarks which we consider denigrating and un-statesmanly on Nigeria and Nigerians in general”.
“He was reported to have said Nigerians are corrupt people when he hosted service chiefs on his 90th birthday,” Mr. Uhomoibhi added.
“Are we now like Nigeria where you have to reach your pocket to get anything done,” Mr. Mugabe was quoted as saying by Vanguard Newspapers which quoted a Zimbabwean medium. “You see we used to go to Nigeria and every time we went there we had to carry extra cash in our pockets to corruptly pay for everything. You get into a plane in Nigeria and you sit there and the crew keeps dilly dulling without taking off as they wait for you to pay them to fly the plane.”
The statement has now been condemned by Nigeria.
“We want to present the strongest protest in that statement; not only does it not reflect the reality in our country, but to come from a sitting president of a brotherly country is most unkind and very dishonourable, ’’ he said.
Mr. Uhomoibhi said the Zimbabwean president’s comment was unfortunate, given the role played by Nigeria in the liberation struggle in southern Africa.
He said Nigeria had always stood with Zimbabwe “shoulder to shoulder’’ since independence and was one of the first countries to congratulate Mr. Mugabe on his re-election.
“At the point sanctions were imposed on your country, Nigeria empathised with Zimbabwe,’’ he said.
Later, the permanent secretary told journalists that Nigeria’s reaction to the comment was not belated, given that it had been in the public domain since March 15.
“In our diplomatic parlance, we do not react the way people would want us to react; we have to verify and articulate our position,’’ he said.
In his response, Mr. Kunjeku said Nigeria’s protest would be forwarded to Harare.
Meanwhile, Mr. Uhomoibhi has condemned the reported attacks on Nigerians in South Africa last week.
“We condemn in strong terms, any acts of racism, xenophobia and discrimination perpetrated by whomsoever, including in that particular country.
“We are appalled that these incidents occur from a country that we hold in highest esteem and which is a brotherly country to Nigeria.
“We hope that due processes would be taken so that this does not happen (again).”
The permanent secretary also called on the South African Government to take appropriate actions against those responsible for the attacks.
He urged South Africa to abide by its commitment to international standards of behaviour and cordial relations between both countries.
On April 2 and 3, some Nigerians were hospitalised in Pretoria after attacks by organised gangs in South Africa.
Also, no fewer than 25 shops owned by Nigerians in Johannesburg and Pretoria were looted by the South African gangs.
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