There are strong indications that the fact-finding panel that would be set up next week to probe the diplomatic row over a telephone call between Nigeria and Morocco, may summon some senior directors involved in the issue.
Investigations by SUNDAY PUNCH in Abuja on Saturday indicate that among those that would appear before the panel are senior staff and director of the public affairs/ communication division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The ministry issued the statement last Monday claiming that President Goodluck Jonathan spoke with King Mohammed VI.
The Moroccan monarch, howerver, refuted the claim that he had a telephone conversation with Jonathan and in protest recalled its ambassador to Nigeria.
While, the MFA had insisted that the President spoke with the monarch while he was in France, but Jonathan laid the controversy to rest last Friday, saying he did not speak with Mohammed.
The President then directed that the issue should be investigated and the errant officials punished.
Findings by our correspondent in Abuja on Friday, showed that the Foreign Affairs Minister, Aminu Wali, might escape sanctions for the diplomatic faux pas by shifting blame for the mess on his aides to save face.
However, it was learnt that the public affairs/ communication division which made the claim that Jonathan spoke with Mohammed, could not have done so without an express permission from Wali.
A senior official of the ministry who pleaded anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media said, “Civil servants don’t carry out a policy or directive without express permission and this means that the order to issue the statement that Jonathan spoke with the Moroccan King must have come from the minister. Now that things have backfired, Wali would not take the blame, it is his aides that would accept responsibility in order to protect the minister,” the senior official said.
It was also gathered that the ‘indicted’ officials may be transferred to other departments or be reprimanded if found culpable as directed by the President.
“There is no guarantee that anyone would be sanctioned; if no one was punished in the immigration recruitment exercise where many Nigerians died, why would anyone be punished in this case? The President needs public support more than ever, he cannot afford to antagonise anyone now,” another official reasoned.
Meanwhile, principal staff at the ministry have been holding meetings and brainstorming on how to contain the situation.
The Director, Public Affairs Communication Division, Ahmedu Ogbole-Ode, could not be reached for comments as he did not respond to calls to his telephone on Saturday. Punch