The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday explained why Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was not arrested in Nigeria. It said by the statute of the African Union (AU), he was supposed to enjoy immunity like other delegates.
It also said al-Bashir was in the country under the auspices of the AU and the nation owes an obligation to respect the decision of the continental body.
The ministry said the presence of al-Bashir is a matter between the AU and the international community.
The Ministry made the clarifications in a statement in Abuja against the backdrop of controversy trailing the presence of al-Bashir in Nigeria for the AU Summit.
It said Nigeria is standing by the 2009 Resolution of the AU that the UN Security Council should defer the proceedings initiated against President al- Bashir in accordance with Article 16 of the Rome Statute of the International Crime Commission (ICC).
The statement said: “With respect to the participation of H E President Omar Hassan El-Bashir of the Republic of The Sudan, it should be emphasised that Nigeria, as an active member of the continental body, is under an obligation to comply with the decision of the African Union on the Special Summit.
“The decision to hold this Summit was taken by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union. Therefore, member states do not require the invitation from Nigeria to attend. “Indeed, standard Host Country Agreements for such Summits grant privileges and immunities to all foreign participants expected at the conference, including obligations on the part of host countries to provide all the necessary facilities for the entry and exit to participants.
“President al-Bashir was therefore in Nigeria under the auspices of the African Union, based on the Assembly decision to convene the Special Summit in Abuja, to deal with three diseases that together constitute a heavy burden on member states.”
The Ministry urged Nigerians not to make an issue out of al-Bashir’s trip to Nigeria.
It added: “Any attempt to make an issue out of the attendance of President al- Bashir at the AU Summit will only serve to unnecessarily shift focus away from the important objectives of the Special Summit.
“It is, therefore, a matter between the African Union and the international community.”
The Ministry said the Federal Government decided to stick to the 2009 resolution of the AU urging the UN Security Council to defer action against al-Bashir.
“For the records and avoidance of doubt, Nigeria’s position in this regard is consistent with the AU Assembly decision adopted at the 13th Ordinary Session of the Heads of State and Government in Sirte, Libya on 3rd July, 2009, as it concerns President al-Bashir of The Sudan.
“In this regard, it is worthy to recall that following the lack of action on the request by the African Union to the UN Security Council to defer the proceedings initiated against President al- Bashir in accordance with Article 16 of the Rome Statute of the ICC, the AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government decided inter-alia that the “…AU Member States shall not cooperate pursuant to the provisions of Article 98 of the Rome Statute of the ICC relating to immunities, for the arrest and surrender of President Omar El-Bashir of The Sudan…”
“The AU decision further reiterated its request to the UN Security Council and appropriate response is still being awaited to-date. As a responsible member of the AU, Nigeria has a duty to take full cognisance of this decision in the overall interest of Africa.”
Read more: The Nation Newspapers