After a two-week silence, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Barr. Nyesom Wike, has responded to Islamic clerics led by Sheikh Ahmed Gumi who criticised him for his meeting with Israeli Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Michael Freeman, four days before the Israel/Hamas face-off.
The clerics had criticised Wike, for meeting Freeman. They described the Minister as an infidel and southern Christian who should not preside over Nigeria’s Federal Capital, which they claimed belonged to the north
The outbursts of the men, including one with a prayer that President Bola Tinubu should not last a year as president for betraying and disappointing Muslims, drew a virulent backlash from other northerners, including Christian leaders, who berated the clerics for fanning the embers of division along sectional and religious lines. They, like southern groups and leaders, wondered why the Department of State Services (DSS) has not arrested the men.
Wike, said that his role as FCT Minister does not include determining relations between Nigeria and other countries.
Wike made this clarification in a recent meeting with the leadership of the Abuja National Mosque in his office, but which was made public on Sunday by Abuja Digest, a publication of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA)
The Minister was reacting to misleading reports in a section of the online media regarding a recent courtesy call paid on him by the Israeli Ambassador to Nigeria, Michael Freeman.
Part of the fake reports claimed that the Minister had expressed support for Israel over Palestine.
However, the Minister explained that he has no constitutional powers to determine Nigeria’s diplomatic relations with other countries; saying such powers lies absolutely with the President and Commander-in-Chief.
Wike said: “I have heard from various social media platforms that we had a meeting that we are doing this and that with Israel. I am here acting on delegation of powers on behalf of Mr. President.”
“I cannot determine a relationship between a country and another country. So, it is difficult for anybody to say I am doing this, I am doing that,” he said.
“Any foreign body that wants to have anything to do with Nigeria, it is the Minister of Foreign Affairs who will write to me and state that these people want to see me; it is simple,” Wike noted.
“And when they come, it is in my position to say look, we want to partner with you. Take for instance, you are going into agriculture and we want to partner, then we tell you where exactly,” he explained.
The Minister further clarified that his meeting with the Israeli Ambassador was purely for agricultural partnership in the interest of farmers in the Federal Capital Territory.
According to him, “In Abuja here, most of them have cultural farms and we say look, it is our own desire to help anybody who wants to invest in Abuja, particularly in agriculture, in order to employ our people and get more revenue. It has nothing to do with another country. It doesn’t work that way.”
“When our people begin to now think different angles and people may not understand that it is not correct. So I will like to use this opportunity to say look, we have to talk to our people. In fact we must live harmoniously. We must live together to make sure that development is promoted”, Wike stated.
Amb. Freeman’s courtesy visit on Wike took place on 3rd October, while the Hamas attack on Israel took place four days after the visit, on 7th October, 2023. Israel has continued to retaliate the killing of over 1,300 of its citizens and abduction of many more, Amid calls for restraint by the international community.
Recall also that Amb. Freeman had during the visit expressed his country’s willingness to work with Nigeria to generate employment opportunities for the unemployed population, transform Abuja into a technology hub, and engage in agricultural partnerships. The matter of security of the nation’s Capital also featured in their discussions.
● Additional report by Abuja Digest per Wisdom Acka