The Federal Government yesterday summoned the Zimbabwean Head of Chancery to protest statements credited to President Robert Mugabe, describing Nigeria and its people as corrupt.
Zimbabwean Head of Chancery, Stanley Kunjeku, was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abuja, during which a formal protest was lodged.
In his response, Kunjeku said Nigeria’s protest would be forwarded to Harare.
Describing the statement credited to the sit-tight Zimbabwean president as `vitriolic and denigrating on Nigeria and Nigerians,’ Permanent Secretary in the Foreign Affairs ministry, Dr. Martin Uhomoibhi, said: “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.”
Uhomoibhi said Nigeria viewed Mugabe’s comments as a reflection of, ‘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’.
Said the Permanent Secretary: “He was reported to have said Nigerians are corrupt people when he hosted service chiefs on his 90th birthday.
“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.
He also said the Zimbabwean president’s comment was unfortunate, given the role played by Nigeria in the liberation struggle in southern Africa, adding that Nigeria had always stood with Zimbabwe and was one of the first countries to congratulate Mugabe on his re-election.
“At the point sanctions were imposed on your country, Nigeria empathised with Zimbabwe,’’ he said.
On why the counry’s response was coming late, Uhomoibhi said: “In our diplomatic parlance, we do not react the way people would want us to react; we have to verify and articulate our position.’’