Danish Foreign Affairs Minister Narrowly Escapes Death in Aso Rock
What could have been a serious diplomatic row between Denmark and Nigeria was averted Tuesday when an operative of Nigeria’s Secret Police, the Department of State Security Services (also called DSS or SSS) accidentally discharged his weapon in the presence of the visiting Danish Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. Kristian Jensen, The Trent reports.
Jensen, currently on a working visit to Nigeria, was at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Tuesday, February 23, 2016 to meet with Nigeria’s Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo. While Jensen and his entourage were passing through security clearance, a DSS official discharged his weapon.
“Immediately, there was panic and the security detail of the visiting Danish foreign minister whisked him into the toilet for safety,” a security source told The Trent.
“It was discovered that the weapon was discharged accidentally. It was a big relief for all of us present. Nigeria, certainly, missed a bullet with that one,” our source, who spoke to our reporter on condition of anonymity said.
The meeting with the Vice President later held after the matter was cleared up. Jensen led a Danish delegation to Aso Rock. The delegation included the Danish Ambassador and businessmen from Denmark.
“This is what you get when you replace highly trained DSS operatives with soldiers,” a security source familiar with the situation disclosed that the shot was fired in the direction of the visiting foreign minister and it was fired by a soldier who had been assigned to the Presidential Villa.
“When the new president came he ordered that DSS operatives at the Villa [Aso Rock] be replaced with soldiers. This directive, led to disagreements between the President’s security detail and the DSS, there was a whole lot of back and forth and some officers were fired from the service because of it,” the source who pleaded anonymity told our report.
“DSS operatives who are assigned to protect the President are highly trained and in the history of the service, this kind of embarrassment has never happened,” our source said.
A top diplomat who confirmed this incident said that first thing that came to his mind was the religious riots that rocked Nigeria in 2005 following publication of editorial cartoons that depicted the Prophet Muhammad in Denmark.
Violent protests broke out in Northern Nigeria following the publication of the cartoons by a Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten. Sixteen Christian were killed in Maiduguri, Borno State, churches were torched and businesses belonging to Christians were looted and burnt down by Muslim rioters.
The Danish government defended the rights of the newspaper to free speech after violent protests broke out around the world over the cartoons. “The freedom of expression has a wide scope and the Danish government has no means of influencing the press,” the Danish prime minister at the time, Anders Fogh Rasmussen wrote in response to a letter from twelve foreign ambassadors. Rasmussen later described the episode as “Denmark’s worst international relations incident since the Second World War”.
“I thought, ‘O, my God’, I hope some sleeper terrorist has not infiltrated Aso Rock and targeted the Danish foreign leader,” the diplomat who said he was not authorised the speak on the matter and as such did not wish to be named, told our reporter. “Thankfully, the minister was not harmed. Had it been otherwise, who would have believed it was an accidental discharge?”
Mr. Jensen, 44, is in Nigeria to inaugurate the new office of the Denmark Consulate-General in Lagos and and trade mission. At the ceremony on Monday in Lagos, he announced his government’s renewed commitment to strengthen strategic areas of cooperation with Nigeria “which would strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries in the years ahead”.
At the event yesterday, Denmark’s ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Torben Gettermann disclosed that the visit of the minister and Denmark’s business delegation to Nigeria was aimed at growing Danish business interests in Nigeria. He also disclosed that Danish companies had indicated interest in doing business in Nigeria.
“We know that Nigeria is a central political player in Africa.” Jensen, who is a member of the Danish Parliament said. “Denmark will, therefore, be working with Nigeria in ensuring regional stability, end conflicts, improve maritime security and counter violent extremism.”
Our request for comment on this incident to the spokesman for the DSS, Steve Okey and the spokesman for the Vice President, Laolu Akande were not replied at the time of going to press.
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