By Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
Following his much-publicised recall from Nigeria after the phone call spat, the Ambassador of Morocco, Mr. Mustapha Cherqaoui has quietly returned to Nigeria with a plan for both countries to attempt to repair the strained diplomatic ties.
THISDAY could not confirm the exact day he returned to Nigeria, but it was just before the elections which started on March 28, 2015.
A source told THISDAY that both countries would set up meetings to discuss how to work out the differences leading to his recall after Rabat said it snubbed President Goodluck Jonathan’s attempt to speak with King Mohammed IV of Morocco.
Rabat had said the phone call was snubbed because it was an attempt to curry favour with Nigeria’s Muslim electorate in the presidential elections.
Nigeria’s Foreign Ministry in early March, had issued a statement insisting that Jonathan spoke with the king, an announcement which Morocco claimed was unethical, consequently recalling their Ambassador for ‘consultations’.
Nigeria’s relationship with Morocco has remained frosty with Nigeria’s recognition of the Republic of Western Saharawi, a part of which Morocco has continued to annex as its colony.
But sources in the foreign ministry had told THISDAY that the phone took take place, and that Nigeria was trying to lobby Morocco, alongside Algeria and Egypt to support the candidacy of Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Akinwumi Adeshina as President of the African Development Bank.
Nigerian Special Envoy for the purpose was Vice President Namadi Sambo, who first went to Algeria, a move that might also have angered Morocco whose relations with Algeria remain frosty over the latter’s support for the Saharawis.
The sources had explained that the Moroccan monarch did not have any influence on Nigerian Muslims, and it would be useless to ‘seek his blessings’ on such matter.
In a twist, the Presidency had released a statement denying that the conversation took place and set up a committee headed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Aminu Wali, to investigate the source of the ‘misinformation.’
Whether the committee sat at anytime, or whatever its findings are, remain unclear.
Nigeria in 1984 had recognised Western Saharawi, leading to its admission into the then Organisation of African Unity. Membership of Saharawi in now African Union led to Morocco withdrawing in protest, consequently, Morocco is not a member of the union.
Morocco is also miffed at what it said is the ill-treatment of Palestine by Nigeria at the UN Draft resolution on the Israeli Palestine issue in January this year.
Attempts to reach the Director of Protocol, Ambassador Usman Baraya, whose office is supposed to receive a note verbale from Cherqaoui informing of his return, failed. THISDAY gathered that Baraya has left the country to resume as Nigeria’s Charge d’affaires in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
When contacted,the Spokesman of the Foreign Ministry, Mr. Amedu Ogbole Ode, said he was not aware of the return of the Moroccan Ambassador.
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