The Presidency has denied that Nigeria was represented at Monday’s official opening of the United States embassy in Jerusalem, Israel.
The controversial move to relocate it from Tel Aviv by the President Donald Trump administration has already drawn the ire of Palestinians who carried out a deadly protest during the ceremony thought to have been attended by Nigeria along with dozens of other nations.
But a top Presidency office’s has now distanced Nigeria from the event, saying in Abuja on Tuesday that the country was not represented.
The official who did not want to be named said in a statement distributed to the media: “Nigeria was not present at an event during which the United States officially relocated its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on Monday contrary to media report.”
The source said the Federal Government had written to a foreign medium, Al Jazeera, demanding a retraction of its story that listed Nigeria as one of the countries represented at the event.
The Presidency official disclosed that based on the report, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, queried the Nigerian Ambassador to Israel to explain his presence at the event.
The Presidency said: “Based on that report, the minister queried the ambassador to explain why he attended the event.
“The ambassador has since replied that he was not at the event.
“It was on the strength of the ambassador’s response that the Federal Government wrote to Al Jazeera to retract its story.”
The embassy opening took place amid road closures and heavy police presence in anticipation of Palestinian protests, as well as deadly demonstrations in Gaza calling for the refugees’ right to return to the homes they were forcibly expelled from 70 years ago.
Trump had promised during his campaign that he would recognize Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel and relocate the US embassy to the city.
In December 2017, he fulfilled the first part of that campaign promise by declaring Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in line with the wish of Israel.
On Monday, Trump said via a video message to the ceremony: “Today we follow through on this recognition and open our embassy in the historic and sacred land of Jerusalem, and we’re opening it many, many years ahead of schedule.”