Nigeria has summoned United States Ambassador Terence McCulley over his comment on the Boko Haram insurgency. Minister of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru, who invited the Ambassador, discussed with him his comment, which the government said it was not comfortable with.
But a government source said despite the interaction, there was no strain in the two countries’ relationship. Speaking in a telephone conference with journalists from four locations in West Africa on Thursday, Ambassador McCulley said: “The Boko Haram phenomenon has not stopped as a result of the operation going on in northern Mali. I do believe that Nigerians feel that there is a link between extremist activity in the Sahel and in their internal extremist insurgency.
“The government of Nigeria clearly needs to address this issue with what we call a multi-pronged approach that focuses generally on the security threat that Boko Haram represents. Also, in addressing economic and social conditions that exist in the North, communicating to northern populations, who have suffered most from the deprivations of these extremist attacks.”
A source in the ministry, who pleaded not to be named because he is not authorised to speak officially, said: “It was shocking to the government for the Ambassador to have faulted our approach to the Boko Haram crisis. Apart from demanding a new approach to Boko Haram, he expressed doubts that the ongoing intervention in Mali might not solve the crisis.
“We felt the Ambassador did not explore appropriate diplomatic channels to air his views on such a volatile matter. “But when the Ambassador came, he told the Minister that he was misquoted. He took time to explain what he meant during a telephonic conference call with journalists.
“So far, I can tell you that the Foreign Affairs Minister and the Ambassador had fruitful interaction. There is no cause for alarm at all in our relationship with the US.”
Asked if it was right to invite the Ambassador, the source asked: “Is it bad to seek clarification on any issue or comment? We need to find out if the US is not on the same page with us on Boko Haram menace. “We are concerned because the US is a member of the UN Security Council which approved the intervention in Mali.” Also on Friday, the Foreign Ministry summoned a top U.S. diplomat over the U.S. Embassy’s Twitter account critical of the unconditional pardon given to former Bayelsa State Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, who was convicted on corruption charges.
Two short tweets were published by the U.S. Embassy in Abuja. The first said the U.S. was “deeply disappointed” over the Alamieyeseigha pardon. The second tweet simply said: “We see this as a setback in the fight against corruption.” The Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying it was urgently calling James P. McAnulty, the U.S. deputy chief of mission, for a meeting. The statement called the U.S. remarks “undue interference and meddlesomeness,” since the president had followed the provision of the Nigerian constitution granting him the power to issue pardons.
“The ministry finally expressed the hope that the embassy of the United States of America would henceforth desist from making unwarranted comments on Nigeria’s internal affairs, which are capable of undermining the friendly relations that exist between them,” the statement said. The search for the bodies of the seven hostages allegedly killed by Jama’atu Ansarul Musilimina Fi Biladis Sudan (a.k. a Ansaru) has not yielded results.
It was also learnt that US drones are not in Nigeria to track down Boko Haram leaders. A Foreign Affairs Ministry source, who spoke with our correspondent, said: “The Federal Government is aware that there are US drones in Niger Republic and not in this country as being insinuated. “We have not entered into any agreement with the US to establish a drone base in this country. “We understand the apprehension of some Nigerians because we share borders with Niger Republic. So if the drones are patrolling towns and villages close to Nigeria, people are bound to be concerned.”
The search for the bodies of the seven hostages killed by Ansaru has not yielded results. Besides Nigerian security agencies, all the foreign missions with nationals among the hostages are carrying out investigations into where they were killed, what has become of their bodies and how to retrieve the remains of the victims. Those purportedly killed were three Lebanese and one each from Britain, Greece, Italy and the Philippines.
They were all employees of SETRACO , a Lebanese construction company. Also, there were indications that the United Nations might float a peacekeeping operation in Mali from July. According to the UN news service, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Edmond Mulet, gave the hint in Bamako on Saturday after a week-long assessment visit to Mali.
Mulet said: “July could see the transfer of African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) to a UN stabilisation mission “Any UN force would be limited and focus on supporting the Malian authorities and protecting civilians. “The sovereignty of Mali is the main objective of this international support,” Mr. Mulet said. “It is not to create a buffer between the north and the south. The members of the Security Council and the member states are very clear on the need for Mali to extend its authority over all its territory,” he added.
The News Service said the 15-member UN Security Council would be required to vote on any UN presence in the country. “That authorization is likely to be up for debate following a report from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon due on 27 March. Following Security Council approval, it would take approximately another two month to deploy a force to Mali,” the News Service added.