BY SAM EYOBOKA
THE Greece ambassador inÂ Nigeria,, Mr. Haris Dafaranos and his wife, Haralambo,Â at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja,Â on Friday evening,Â labelled Nigerians thieves.
The couple were at the reception of the luxurious hotelÂ when the wife found a wrist watch belonging to aÂ customer of the hotel, Mr. Notore Kolagbodi, who had apparently forgotten it while checking out.
The security personnel on duty at the reception then requested for the wrist watch to be kept for theÂ ownerÂ but the woman would not entertain any such intervention from the personnel.
Her reasonÂ for refusal, according to an eye witness, was thatÂ Nigerians are habitualÂ thieves and so she could notÂ trust the security people to hand it over to the owner.Â Even the intervention of the security manager on duty and severalÂ other guests could not persuade the ambassadorâ€™s wife to part with the wrist watch.
While the altercation was going on, the owner, Mr. Kolagbodi, returned and wanted to claim his wrist watch but theÂ ambassadorâ€™s wifeÂ stood her ground, saying that the claimant must show her proof of ownership before she could give it to him.
At this stage, an uproar ensued as many exasperated Nigerians who had listened to the exchanges began to express anger at the affront of the woman who continually insisted that Nigerians are thieves. Sources quoted the husband as saying: â€œNigerians are thieves. CanÂ anyone of them deny that fact?Â What is the assurance that you guys did not connive to bring this fellow as the rightful owner of the wrist watch?â€
There was anÂ exchange of hot words but eventually the woman was persuaded to hand over the wrist watch to the owner while the Nigerians present wondered why an ambassador and his wifeÂ could be so undiplomatic in their utterances.
Greece and NigeriaÂ enjoy close ties since Greeceâ€™ establishment of diplomatic mission in Nigeria in 1970 though trade between the two countries is imbalanced, with imports from Greece to Nigeria exceeding exports.
Greek-owned tankers have an important role in shipping Nigerian oil and natural gas, its main exports. Recently, a Greek tanker was involved a dispute over crude oil smuggling.
On March 25, 2009,Â Dafaranos stated that Greece will continue to explore new areas of co-operation and boost cultural, economic, scientific and technological ties with Nigeria.