Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru
By Chineme Okafor
The Federal Government has asked foreign countries with embassies and high commissions in Nigeria to treat Nigeria’s internal issues with utmost respect and regard for local sensitivity.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru, yesterday cautioned diplomats against making provocative and unguarded comments in press interviews and public functions that they get engaged in, saying that such would be in utter disregard of local sensitivities.
Ashiru said this in his address at an interactive session with the diplomatic community at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abuja, where he also claimed that transactions in Nigeria’s stolen crude oil were aided by foreign elements.
In his explanations, the minister noted that such unguarded statements amount to undue interference in Nigeria’s internal affairs, adding that they sometimes represent and promote the views of anti-democratic forces designed to ridicule or embarrass the Nigerian government.
He warned that the Federal Government would not encourage or condone Ambassadors and High Commissioners running riot with comments that were capable of undermining the host authorities abroad.
While calling for supports from the diplomats in tackling the menace of oil theft and terrorism against the country, Ashiru said: “Oil theft and bunkering would have abated a long time ago if there are no buyers of stolen commodity. The vessels used for this ignoble transaction have non-Nigerian ownership, while the buyers are located in countries outside Nigeria.”
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) recently said Nigeria’s current crude oil loss to illegal activities that include bunkering and pipeline tapping on major oil facilities in the Niger Delta had risen from 150,000 barrels per day (bpd) to over 180,000bpd within four months.
NNPC then stated that the country’s current total crude oil loss had outstripped the current crude oil production capacity of Ghana, which is pegged at 120,000bpd, adding that high-profile criminals have taken over illegal oil trading activities from militants who hitherto engaged in such.
Speaking further, the minister noted that Nigeria had received several trade investments and business partnership drives from many countries of the world, thus amounting to increase in number of foreign investors with secured shares and contracts in various sectors of the Nigerian economy.
In his comments about visa application regimes amongst various embassies and high commissions, Ashiru commended the diplomatic missions for improving on visa issuance to Nigerian applicants, but observed that some challenges are still within the system and should be worked out as well.