FG: We are Not Aware of Closure of South African High Commission

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Geoffrey Onyeama

* Defends govs attending WEF in South Africa

* China offers to fund UNGA President’s office

Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja

The federal government Thursday denied knowledge of the closure of the South African High Commission in Nigeria.

The Lagos and Abuja offices of the high commission were reported to have been temporarily shut in the early hours of Thursday in reaction to the reprisal actions being carried out by Nigerians following Xenophobic attacks against their fellow citizens in South Africa.

Answering questions from reporters during a briefing in the State House, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyema, said the government was not aware of the closure.

“We are not aware that the South African government has closed down its High Commission here in Abuja or its consulate in Lagos,” he said.

Also asked why some governors are currently attending the World Economic Forum (WEF) in South Africa after the federal government had announced a boycott of the event, Onyeama said such governors might have arrived the country before the decision was taken.

He added that WEF is not a South African affair but a global event that is only being held in the country.

The Kaduna State Governor, Nasiru el-Rufai and his Ekiti State counterpart, Kayode Fayemi, are participating in the event.

At the briefing, Onyeama told State House reporters that the Chinese government had volunteered to fund the office of the President of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Prof. Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, for the next one year.

Muhammad-Bande, Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN), was elected President of the 74th UN General Assembly in June, this year.

Onyeama’s briefing was the fallout of a meeting between President Muhammadu Buhari and China’s special envoy to Nigeria, Yang Jiechi, who had been sent to the president by the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping.

Muhammad-Bande, who was the sole candidate for the position, got elected through acclamation at the 87th plenary session of UNGA in New York, and is the second Nigerian to preside over UNGA; the first being late Gen. Joseph Garba, a military officer and diplomat, who served from 1989 to 1990.

Speaking on the funding, Onyeama said China made the offer in expression of its support of the reform of the UN that will pave the way for Africa to be represented in the Security Council.

“We have as you know had a Nigerian representative at the United Nations, Prof. Bande, elected as the next President of the General Assembly. The Chinese have provided a funding for that office so that he can function effectively over the next one year,” he said.

According to Onyeama, Buhari at the meeting was informed about details of China’s offer and other levels of support and cooperation with Nigeria beyond funding the office of UNGA president to include infrastructural support, among others.

“In the area of power, the president emphasized the Mambilla power project and the importance of getting that moving again. They looked at the issues of airport, the progress of the airport terminals that the Chinese are helping to construct across the country.

“We also discussed the support of the cooperation in the area of agriculture as well and also encouraging Nigeria to export more to China. We talked about the China exhibition by the end of this year which will be a platform for us to also showcase what we can export, not just agricultural products but also finished products,” the minister added.

China, he stated, is also putting more money in the area of security, sharing of intelligence with the military, assistance with arms production and in the fight against terrorism.

On the issue of Lake Chad, he disclosed that China has had a lot of experience with refilling dams and long range water projects, adding that Buhari also feels that their support was needed in that area.

According to him, they are already supporting the Lake Chad Basin Commission “and we are hoping that they will help us with regards to recharging of the Lake Chad”.