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Xenophobia: Senate Begs Jonathan For Perm Sec

Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja

Following the recalling of the Nigerian envoys to South Africa by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Danjuma Sheni, the Senate yesterday pleaded with President Goodluck Jonathan not to sack the already suspended civil servant.

The UNION reports that Sheni had been suspended for recalling the Nigerian envoys to South Africa, namely: Mrs. Uche Okeke and Mr. Martin Cobham.

You would recall that the Senate had urged the Federal Government to recall the Nigeria High Commissioner to   the Republic of South Africa for consultations over the recent xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and other black immigrants in South Africa by the South African citizens.

The Senate also summoned the Minister of Foreign Affairs to appear before its relevant committees to brief them on the situation and measures taken so far by the Federal Government to safeguard the lives and property of Nigerians that are living in South Africa.

When the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Aminu Wali, appeared before the committee last week, he explained that Nigerians were not the targets in the recent xenophobic attacks against African immigrants resident in South Africa. However, it was reported that the Permanent Secretary immediately effected the recall of the envoys without consulting with the President who has the constitutional responsibility to handle such diplomatic problem. Consequently, angered by this obvious breach of administrative protocol, Jonathan queried and subsequently suspended Sheni.

But the Senate, which passed the resolution, upon which the Permanent Secretary acted, has decided to intervene and save Sheni from being sacked by Jonathan.

The intervention was sequel to a Point of Order raised by the Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Abdul Ningi.

In the Point of Order, Ningi made a personal explanation on the resolution of the Senate on the xenophobic saga and the unfolding incidences around the matter.

He, however, admitted in his explanation that Sheni committed blunder by taking a unilateral action to recall the envoys without consulting with the President for his approval. “The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has been suspended under an investigation for recalling the ambassador without jurisdiction and without the clearance of the President, who is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

“Aware that the President and Commander-in-Chief is responsible for such a call and also aware that the Permanent Secretary has no powers whatsoever to recall an ambassador without a clear directive by the government, “Knowing the anger and the mood of this country and believing that the Senate and indeed the National Assembly did the right thing in suggesting and urging for the executive to recall the ambassador,

“I, therefore, want this Senate not to look the other way at the President, Commander-in- Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces to tamper justice with mercy. “It is indeed his responsibility, powers and jurisdiction, and I think it’s important at times like this that the Senate President should urge the President to tamper justice with mercy so that the Permanent Secretary should not be dismissed.

“He did the wrong thing at the wrong time, and he should not have done it. So, the President, a humble man, should tamper justice with mercy,” Ningi submitted.

Responding, the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over Plenary, said that the issue would not be subjected to debate since it was a personal explanation and not a direct motion.

He also assured that the position of the Senate would be conveyed to the President so that the former ambassador, whose job is currently in great danger, might not be sacked.

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