Polls Shift: FG Cautions Diplomats Against Interference In Internal Affairs

The Federal Government yesterday frowned at some members of the diplomatic community’s penchant for making what it termed “unguarded utterances” on matters that are strictly within the domestic jurisdiction of Nigeria.

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Minister of Foreign Affairs, Amb. Aminu Wali made the government’s position known in Abuja at an interactive session with diplomats over the shift of the general elections.

Wali expressed “the strong displeasure of the Federal Government with the conduct of some Heads of Mission”, who have continued to breach the laid down diplomatic channels of communication.

According to the minister, some heads of mission “have continued to behave in an imperial manner and in clear breach of the channel of the diplomatic communication.

“A situation where a Head of Mission takes on the role of a government, seeking to impose the views and perspectives of his government and making unguarded utterances on matters that are strictly within the domestic jurisdiction of the host country is totally unacceptable.

“It is only in this country that I have noticed some envoys who have taken it upon themselves and without recourse to the government to embark on social causes and political advocacy that are totally unrelated to conventional diplomacy and representational duties of ambassadors.

“It is therefore unacceptable for envoys to abuse their privileges and immunities by behaving in a manner that would have been met with the opprobrium in their countries were Nigerian ambassadors to behave in like manner.

“Let me be clear on this, the federal government will no longer tolerate the excesses of such Heads of Mission.

“They are hereby advised to operate within the norms and etiquette of diplomatic intercourse”, he said.

Wali, who did not name such envoys, expressed the hope that with the support of Nigerians and the international community, the elections would hold as re-scheduled and in a peaceful and violence-free atmosphere.

He said it had become evident that elections could not hold as planned in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.

Wali also explained that doing so could have put the electoral officials, including observers and ad hoc staff, under severe danger.

The minister added that the decision to reschedule the elections, as stated by INEC Chairman Prof. Attahiru Jega, was taken after painstaking consultations with all relevant stakeholders.

He said the federal government found the comments already made by some of Nigeria’s friends and partners on the polls shift as judgmental, precipitate and unwarranted.

“What we need at this time is not to be hectored or lectured as to the conduct of Nigeria’s internal affairs, but the deepening of democracy in our country.

“No country, no matter how well-intentioned, can love Nigeria more than Nigerians”, he said.

According to Wali, there is a broad-based consensus by Nigerians for the elections to hold in all parts of the country, to guarantee the credibility and acceptability of the exercise.

“While security has been a major concern, it is obvious that INEC may not have been fully prepared to conduct the elections as earlier scheduled.

“It is a fact that over 34 per cent of registered voters are yet to collect their permanent voter cards.

“There are other logistical and operational challenges, such as adequate provisions for electoral materials, including prompt delivery and the training of ad-hoc staff which are critical to the success of the elections.

“I am confident that as envoys accredited to Nigeria, you will continue to report events in this country factually and accurately so as to deepen understanding, cooperation and partnership among your individual countries and Nigeria”, the minister said.

On the issue raised  by the representative of the European Union (EU) Delegation to Nigeria, Richard Young, that Nigeria denied international media access to cover the elections, Wali said  the Federal Government had already issued over 300 visas to foreign journalists who are interested in reporting the country’s general elections, adding that the process is ongoing.

“Already, over 300 visas have been issued and we have agreed that visas will not be issued 48 hours soon after the necessary procedure has been completed; so that one is already settled. I don’t know whether your people communicated to you or not”, he noted.