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Clinton: Nigerians frown at US embassy’s breach of protocol

By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief & Tordue Salem
ABUJA—Barring a last minute change of mind, several interest groups scheduled to hold talks with visiting United States Secretary of State, Mrs. Hillary Clinton would not honour the American Embassy invitation based on what is seen in diplomatic circles as a breach of protocol.

It was learnt, yesterday  that the American Embassy in Abuja, had largely kept the Federal Government in the dark on preparations for the Secretary of State’s visit.

Sultan of Sokoto & United States Secretary of State, Mrs. Hillary Clinton
Sultan of Sokoto & United States Secretary of State, Mrs. Hillary Clinton

Mrs. Clinton was scheduled to hold talks with top government officials, led by President Umaru Yar’Adua at the Aso Villa, today, after which she would meet with several stakeholders in Nigeria, including   senators, members of the House of Representatives, traditional rulers, members of the National Inter-religious Council.

However, a top government functionary expressed dismay at the strategy employed by the American Embassy, which was said to have taken it upon itself to make arrangements without adequate consultations with the Nigerian government.

For instance, it was learnt that the Embassy had sent letters to the Senate President, Sen. David Mark, his counterpart at the House of Representatives,   Hon Dimeji Bankole, requesting a list of their colleagues to hold talks with Mrs. Clinton.

A similar letter was said to have been sent to the Sultan of Sokoto, requesting a list of traditional rulers to be invited to meet the visiting Secretary of State. The source said each of them turned down the request.

Top officials of government, it was learnt, were alarmed that with a nation battling religious extremists, the Embassy could ask for nominations of people to meet with the US Secretary of State without considering the security implications.

“We don’t pray that anything bad happens but can you imagine the implications of negatively minded persons being invited to such a meeting if they choose to take advantage of such a meeting.  It would be a monumental tragedy for Nigeria as a nation,” the source said.

The source said that even the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs had no clear picture of the itinerary of Mrs. Clinton until yesterday, wondering “if the ministry which primary responsibility was to make the woman’s visit memorable was kept in the dark until the last minute before arrival, how could it brief the presidency?

“We are uncomfortable with the way officials of the embassy have been secretive about this visit.  It does not show adequate regard for our government and we are certainly not pleased with such an arrangement.  This is a sovereign nation and should be taken as such,” the official insisted.

The official noted that the way the embassy had gone with the preparations for the visit showed a strong disrespect for the Federal Government, which normal protocol demands should fully host Mrs. Clinton and take charge of her entire security.

It was learnt that there were no security meetings between operatives in the embassy and the Nigerian Police High Command in collaboration with other security outfits on the visit.  The Americans were said to have been making independent arrangements, a development considered as a respect for the Federal Government.

Mrs. Clinton had,   at the weekend, criticised Nigerian leaders for the continuous importation of refined petroleum products while occupying the position of world’s number six crude oil producer.  She said it was a sign of bad leadership in the country.

“Nigeria is the 6th largest producer of crude oil but the country still imports fuel,” Clinton said at the weekend during her seven-nation tour of Africa, adding that this was a sign that the nation has poor leadership,” she was quoted as saying.

On the other hand, she praised the Southern African nation of Botswana which she described as a good example for Africa because her leaders judiciously utilized that country’s resources.
The US Secretary of State had warned,   “Investors will not be attracted to states with failed or weak leadership, crime and civil unrest or corruption that taint every transaction and decision.”

Clinton shuns red carpet, state banquet

Facts emerged also yesterday night that Hillary Clinton who arrived the city of Abuja at 8:30 pm yesterday did not step a foot on the red carpet prepared for her by the Nigerian Government, let alone honouring an invitation to a banquet at the State House.

Her security detail, Vanguard gathered, would also ensure that vehicular and human traffic is temporarily cut off around the Shehu Yar’Adua Centre, where she is expected to parley with President Yar’Adua and the Civil Society.

The Centre, it was also gathered would be stripped of any ceremony that may “endanger the security” of Clinton and her team.


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