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Xenophobic attacks: Jonathan suspends permanent secretary for recalling envoy to SA

The purported recall of Nigeria’s envoys to South Africa has led to the suspension of the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Danjuma Sheni, for his alleged role in the controversy surrounding their invitation back home.

Already , a new permanent secretary has been redeployed to the ministry to replace him.

It would be recalled that the Federal Government had on Monday denied recalling her envoys to South Africa following the xenophobic attack on black foreigners resident in that country.

The South African authorities had frowned at the said recall of the envoys, describing it as unnecessary.

A query has already been issued to Sheni by the Head of Service of the Federation, Danladi Kifasi, on the order of President Goodluck Jonathan as the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, had told State House correspondents that there was no truth in the report that Nigerian envoys in South Africa had been recalled.

Abati had explained that the true situation was that the country’s Charge d’Affairs was invited for consultation.

A top government official who pleaded for anonymity told State House correspondents, Tuesday that Jonathan had directed the Head of Service of the Federation to suspend and query the permanent secretary as a result of the embarrassment his action has caused him and the nation.

The source said Sheni’s offence was that he did not get clearance from the President before inviting the country’s Charge d’Affairs in South Africa for consultation, adding that the President was miffed that the ministry embarrassed him again, a few weeks after the diplomatic row between Nigeria and Morocco over whether Jonathan indeed spoke with King Mohammed VI as claimed by the ministry.

The government official said but for civil service rule, Sheni would have been fired.

“The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been suspended and queried for embarrassing the President by not clearing 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, 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 at now, a new permanent secretary has been redeployed to the ministry to replace him,” the source said.

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