The Federal Government has suspended the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Amb Danjuma Sheni, for allegedly recalling Nigeria’s Charge D’Affairs in South Africa in the wake of the xenophobic attacks in the former apartheid enclave.
A top government official told journalists in Aso Rock on Tuesday that Sheni was suspended for embarrassing President Goodluck Jonathan for inviting the envoy without receiving the President’s approval.
The official said the Head of Service of the Federation, Danladi Kifasi, acting on the order of Jonathan, had already queried Sheni and asked him to reply within 24 hours.
“There will still be further consequence,” the official, who asked not to be named, said.
He said the President was miffed that the ministry embarrassed him again, a few weeks after the diplomatic row between Nigeria and Morocco over whether or not Jonathan had a telephone talk with King Mohammed VI of Morocco.
He said, “The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been suspended and queried for embarrassing the President by not receiving approval from him before inviting the Charge D’Affairs.
“The President on Monday directed the Head of Service to query him and he has 24hours to respond to the query. You will recall that that was the second embarrassment with this one coming shortly after the Morocco saga.
“The permanent secretary was to be dismissed immediately but for the civil service rule. Even at that, there will still be further consequence.
“His offence is that he invited the Charge D’Affairs without clearing from the President. The truth is that in this age and time, the ministry can make clarification from the Charge D’Affairs without necessarily inviting him. There is what is called diplomatic dispatches. They can also speak with the envoy on the telephone.
“As of now, a new permanent secretary has been redeployed to the ministry to replace him.”
Media reports over the weekend had indicated that Nigeria had recalled its envoys from South Africa to protest the xenophobic attacks on foreigners by South Africans.
The South African authorities had frowned on the reported action, which was described as unnecessary.
However, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, had, in an interview with State House correspondents on Monday, said there was no truth in the report that Nigerian envoys in South Africa had been recalled.
Abati had explained that the country’s Charge D’Affairs was merely invited home for consultation.