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Don't force leaders on Nigerian communities, Jonathan tells ambassadors

03 March 2013, 09:48

Abidjan - President Goodluck Jonathan on Saturday in Abidjan told ambassadors to stop forcing leaders on Nigerian communities abroad.

Jonathan enjoined the ambassadors to allow the Nigerian communities to operate democratically and without influencing the choice of their leaders.

The President, who on was a two-day official visit to Cote d’Ivoire, also told the Nigerian community in the country that their leaders must emerge by elections.

Jonathan arrived Cote d’Ivoire on Wednesday for the Ordinary meeting of ECOWAS Heads of State and proceeded on a state visit from Friday to Saturday March 1-2.

The president was inundated by complaints from some members of the Nigerian community who accused Amb. Tuesday Obajuluwa of hand picking leaders for the various communities in Abidjan.

The members said the ambassador handpicked nine leaders for the communities from one ethnic group and sidelined the others.

"Nigerian communities must be allowed to choose their leaders by elections,’’ the president ordered.

Jonathan also said the priority of the Nigerian embassies was to look out for Nigerians, flaying an allegation by a member of the community who said the embassy said it had no funds to fend for Nigerians in Cote d’Ivoire.

"The embassy’s first priority is Nigerians. Why should the government set up embassies if it is not for Nigerians?

"I think probably the ambassador would have been misunderstood on the budget issue and that can be clarified. Our first priority in any country is Nigerians.“

On demands for scholarship by the Nigerian community, the president said the scholarships were usually given by the state governments, urging the community to explore other scholarships offered by institutions and individuals.

He said the Ivorien government offered 50 openings for the admission of some Nigerian students as a courtesy for his visit.

Jonathan assured them that the allegations they raised on the ambassador would be investigated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The president said the relationship between Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire was now upswing after a period of coldness over the former’s endorsement of a divided Nigeria during the civil war.

The Nigerian ambassador had earlier said the Ivorien government had been supportive in providing opportunity for Nigerians, noting an intervention by President Alassane Ouattara who ensured that a Nigerian medical student got a job.

Obajuluwa, however, said the issue of citizenship and rights had hunted many Nigerians who were born in the country.

The President of the Nigerian Youth in Abidjan, Mr Bright Moses, complained that the Nigerian community was disenchanted by the leadership of the embassy which complained of paucity of funds to operate.

He said the community was also interested in knowing the modality for remitting the revenues generated by the embassy from the issuance of consular cards, which had been issued to millions of Nigerians in Cote d’Ivoire.

"Mr President, the idea that there are 2 million Nigerians in Cote d’Ivoire is not correct. We have not conducted a census here before. By estimate from the records of the communities, Nigerians in Cote d’Ivoire should be over 4 million.

"We urged the embassy to take a census and it responded that it had no money.  Even for the mobilisation of Nigerians to receive you on this visit we had to use our personal funds,” Moses said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Nigerians at the meeting agreed with Moses, cheering him on to reveal the challenges faced by Nigerians in relating with the embassy.

On his part, the Chairman of one of the Nigerian communities in that country, the Abobo-Abidjan, Mr Akinwale Tajudeen, said Nigerians had fared better under the Ouattara government than other previous administrations.



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