Foreign Ministry says the ECOWAS bloc wants the incumbent retained

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Olugbenga Ashiru, has reiterated Nigeria’s support for the incumbent Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, Jean Ping, who is seeking a re-election in July.

Speaking at the ‘Global African Diaspora Summit’, Ashiru told journalists that Vice President Namadi Sambo had been misquoted by some media organisations on Thursday as saying that the country would support the South Africa’s Interior Minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, for the post.

“Nigeria’s decision to support Ping is based on principle; and that position has not changed and will not change,” he said. “Nigeria and the entire ECOWAS bloc decided to support Ping in order to balance the leadership of the commission.”

He explained that there was a consensus by the five big countries – South Africa, Egypt, Algeria, Libya and Nigeria – not to contest the post of the chairperson of the commission as a way of giving other countries a sense of belonging, adding that South Africa’s decision to contest for the post was a violation of the agreement.

Ashiru further stated that President Goodluck Jonathan had recently told special envoys from South Africa and Southern African Development Community (SADC) that Nigeria’s support for Ping remained the same and would not change.

He said the decision by ECOWAS to give Ping bloc votes during the July Summit in Lilongwe, Malawi, has been accepted by all member states.

Also, the Nigeria High Commission in Pretoria has denied reports that Nigeria backed South Africa for the top AU job. “The High Commission wishes to state that Vice President Namadi Sambo did not make such statement as suggested and carried by newspapers and news agencies,” a statement by the commission read.

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