The Federal Government summoned yesterday the Zimbabwean Head of Chancery, Stanley Kunjeku, over remarks credited to President Robert Mugabe, which depicted Nigerians as corrupt.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned Kunjeku in Abuja to protest against Mugabe’s comment.
The Permanent Secretary Dr Martin Uhomoibhi, described Mugabe’s comment as “vitriolic and denigrating on Nigeria and Nigerians”.
He added: “We were concerned when we read that on the occasion of the 90th birthday of President Mugabe, he took time to vituperate about Nigeria.”
The permanent secretary noted that Mugabe’s comments reflected “what we consider to be a strong aversion of our country, remarks which we consider denigrating …on Nigeria and Nigerians in general”.
Uhomoibhi said: “He (Mugabe) was reported to have said Nigerians are corrupt people, when he hosted service chiefs on his 90th birthday.
“We want to present the strongest protest against that statement; not only does it not reflect the reality in our country, but to come from a sitting President of a brotherly country is most unkind and very dishonourable.”
The Uhomoibhi said the Zimbabwean President’s comment was unfortunate, given the role Nigeria played in the liberation struggle of southern Africa.
He said Nigeria had always stood by Zimbabwe “shoulder-to-shoulder” since independence and was one of the first countries to congratulate Mugabe on his re-election.
“At the point sanctions were imposed on your country, Nigeria empathised with Zimbabwe,” Uhomoibhi said.
The permanent secretary told reporters that Nigeria’s reaction to the comment was not belated, because it had been in the public domain since March 15.
“In our diplomatic parlance, we do not react the way people would want us to react. We have to verify and articulate our position,” he said.
Kunjeku said Nigeria’s protest would be forwarded to Harare, the Zimbabwean federal capital.
Also, Uhomoibhi condemned last week’s attacks on Nigerians in South Africa.
He said: “We condemn, in strong terms, any act of racism, xenophobia and discrimination perpetrated by whomsoever, including in that particular country.
“We are appalled that these incidents occur from a country we hold in highest esteem and which is a brotherly country to Nigeria.
“We hope that due processes would be taken so that this does not happen (again).”
The permanent secretary urged the South African Government to take appropriate actions against those responsible for the attacks.
He urged South Africa to abide by its commitment to international standards of behaviour and cordial relations between both countries.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that on April 2 and 3, some Nigerians were hospitalised in Pretoria, after attacks by organised gangs in South Africa.
Also, 25 shops belonging to Nigerians in Johannesburg and Pretoria were looted by South African gangs.