Akinterinwa, Keshi, others evaluate govt’s actions against South Africa

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Kabiru Bala

RETIRED diplomats and international affairs experts have hailed the Federal Government for recalling its High Commissioner to South Africa Ambassador Kabiru Bala and also pulling out of the World Economic Summit which begun in Cape Town on Wednesday.

But, former Nigerian Ambassador to the United States of America Joe Keshi, differed on Nigeria recalling its envoy.

Those interviewed by The Nation such as former Nigerian Permanent Representative to the African Union and retired Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Paul Lolo, ex-Director General of Nigerian Institute of International Affairs Prof. Bola Akinterinwa and Ambassador and university don, Prof. Osita Agbu.

Lolo said recalling an ambassador from a country is having a diplomatic row is the first step in unravelling what is amiss and next step to take.

He said: “It is a clear indication that Nigeria is not happy. A country that resorts to recalling its ambassador is sending a clear and unambiguous message.”

On other measures to take, the former Permanent Secretary said under international law, all countries, including South Africa, have obligations they must meet.

According to him, South Africa must have received requests from the Federal Government which they must meet.

“I watched South African President talking about the issue. That means they are already taking action public on the matter. Therefore, we must wait for their reactions before taken other measure,” Lolo said.

To Akinterinwa, recalling Nigerian High Commissioner “is good, but not good enough”.

He said in a diplomatic row, “the first step to take is to recall your high commissioner for briefing or report on what transpired. Based on the report, you determine the steps to take and the level of representation. Maybe to send an ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary, who has the power to sign an agreement on behalf of the government on the diplomatic crisis. Recalling the high commissioner shows there is no one to link Nigeria with South Africa diplomatically and not attending the Africa World Economic Forum is to say our government is dissatisfied with South Africa. If South Africa does not want deterioration in relationship, they must take the required action.”

On the principle of reparation, Akinterinwa said: “We must wait for the response of South Africa. South Africa must pay adequate compensation for the actions of its citizens.”

The university don said the Federal Government may break diplomatic ties with South Africa if it’s not satisfied with the response from Pretoria.

Keshi said Nigeria ought to have allowed the envoy dispatched to Pretoria to come back before taking action on the matter.

He said: “This is one of the options open to the government. But the Federal Government should have tarried a bit. I don’t know whether the special envoy announced yesterday is gone or back. This is the time the high commissioner should be on the ground to attend to those injured and those who need diplomatic attentions.

“Though the move is not out of place, the high commissioner is the head of the mission. By recalling him, who will relate with South Africa at the highest level?” he queried.

He disagreed with the notion that the envoy did not do well. He said as a retired diplomat, he has had his fair share of what envoys go through.

Agbu said going by what he has been reading in the newspapers and on the television, it is good that Nigeria has recalled the envoy.

He said: “If what we read in the media is correct, Nigerians have been going to the high commission and staging protests for succour without being attended to. The gates of the commissions are always locked against them during the time of needs. It shows there is no cordial relation between the high commission and Nigerians in the country.

“I also understand that resources are scarce, but that does not mean that you have to lock your gates against your countrymen in the time of need.”

According to the university don, recalling the envoy “is a symbolic act”. “It shows Nigeria is displeased with South Africa,” Agbu said.