By Tordue Salem – Abuja
The Ambassador of Lebanon to Nigeria, Mr. Houssam Diab, on Thursday, walked out on the House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora Affairs.
Mr. Diab was summoned by the House Committee headed by Rep. Tolulope Akande-Shadipe, to respond to questions on the maltreatment of Nigerians in Lebanon, especially one Temitope Arowolo.
But as the hearing was about to commence, at about 10: 52am, the Lebanese envoy, walked out of the room and shut the House’ hearing room 348 door, behind him.
The Chairman of the Committee, who was miffed by the development, said they were “shocked that the Ambassador will just get up and walk out on us”.
Shortly after the development, she excused the Media from the room and called for an Executive Session.
The lawmaker after the session, however, recanted, saying the meeting was cordial, and the walk-out was a misunderstanding.
“It was an informal meeting because the Ambassador was nice enough to join us at the meeting. There is no law that says he has to be here today, but because he has an interest in the joint relationship between Nigeria and Lebanon.
“We have a lot of Nigerians in Lebanon, we have a lot of Lebanese in Nigeria. We have a relationship with Lebanon from the 50s so you can imagine how we have been.
“This meeting today has further reiterated the Lebanese community and the Nigerian community we always stand together to ensure that justice and respect for human lives is a priority and we will work together to bring modern-day slavery to an end”.
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She also announced that the Lebanese government had agreed to release Ms. Temitope and other Nigerians held in the country. Ms. Arowolo, was in detention in the country, for alleged attempted murder of her master and on allegations of theft.
“I am happy to inform Nigerians that Temitope will be home before the end of the week, and so many other Nigerians who want to come home from Lebanon the opportunity will be provided for them to come home.
“We are also taking this opportunity, to look at the case of a Lebanese who is held in Illorin on charges of human trafficking, to ensure that there is merit in the case.
“We will continue to collaborate with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure that we have continued relationship with Lebanon that our girls can go there legally to work and work in circumstances that are not dehumanizing”.
On the issue of the Ambassador bolting out of the meeting, she said “It was a misunderstanding, it meant to be an informal meeting and the Ambassador was not aware that even when we have our informal meeting is documented.
“Because of the law of diplomacy, he wasn’t expecting to have media there and it was immediately resolved that it was going to be an executive session. The Minister apologized on behalf of Foreign Affairs and he apologized on behalf of the country and the Embassy of Lebanon”.
She added that “You will be invited on the day Temitope arrives and you will see that this is not eye service and not just Temitope that flight is bringing in Ladies who want to come home and we will continue to bring home those who want to come home. The Lebanese Government is promising us now that it will ensure our girls work in very humane circumstances.
To Nigerians, keep your eyes open there is source at home that is fueling human trading. There are Nigerians that you and I need to monitor them and ensure that the human trafficking source here in Nigeria is brought to an end.
“So we need to be our brother keeper. If you know any of those agents you need to go and report them to NAPTIP”.
The Minister of State Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Zubairu Dada who was also at the meeting, said “We are willing and ready to work with the Committee to protect and defend the interest of Nigerians in diaspora. What we have done in the case of Temitope and other, we will continue to do our best”.