Nigeria summoned the Egyptian ambassador Thursday to protest the maltreatment of a 17-year-old Nigerian by Egypt’s national carrier, Egypt Air.
The foreign ministry summoned the Egyptian ambassador, Ashraf Salama, to formally lodge a protest over the treatment meted out to Joshua Abdul-Azeez, and demanded an unreserved apology from the Egyptian Government.
The Minister of State 1, Foreign Affairs, Viola Onwuliri, accused Egypt Air of “child-abuse” for starving the young Nigerian of food for three days, after wrongly routing his air ticket.
She said it was unacceptable that Egypt Air had failed to respond to repeated enquiries from the Nigeria Embassy in Cairo on what led to the treatment of the Nigerian.
The Nigerian authorities had sought explanation from the airline on reports that the Nigerian passport of the 17-year-old Nigerian was torn to shreds by a staff of Egypt Air in Istanbul, Turkey.
Ms. Onwuliri expressed dismay that the Egyptian ambassador’s initial reaction to the issue was to question the authenticity of local media reportage on the Nigerian who was treated like “a common criminal’’ by Egypt Air.
“Egypt and Nigeria are friendly countries and they have built this friendship over the years, but I don’t think we should allow things like this to happen,” she said.
“You (the ambassador) are worried about four pages of newspaper report on the issue, but I am surprised that you are not worried that a Nigerian passport was torn by an official of Egypt Air.
“I am surprised that you are not worried that a young boy, a Nigerian citizen, was left without food and water by an airline operated by your government.
“I am really surprised at you Mr. Ambassador,’’ she said.
The minister told the ambassador that the Nigerian government would not hesitate to demand compensation for the citizen when it concludes investigation on the matter.
“One Nigerian citizen is important to us and part of our multi-track diplomacy is that every Nigeria everywhere must be fully accounted for.
“The young boy in questions was going back to school in Ukraine and he complained here that he was issued the wrong ticket.
“Did you (Egypt Air) employ people who cannot read tickets and issue correct codes even after complaints,’’ she said.
The minister therefore demanded a formal explanation from the Egyptian government, which had 100 per cent control of Egypt Air.
In his defence, the Egyptian ambassador earlier blamed the Nigerian media for escalating a “small incident’’ involving a Nigerian passenger and Egypt Air.
Mr. Salama said that a Nigerian newspaper devoted four-pages to the issue.
He said the embassy had contacted Egypt Air and his home government on the incident but had yet to receive a formal report.
“We have respect for our Nigerian brothers and if this incident really happened, we will see who is responsible and punish accordingly.
“But we must taste and verify the credibility of the news report on the issue before we make a judgment,’’ he said.
Mr. Salama called for restraint from the Nigerian authorities on the issue, saying “I do not think this incident should escalate so much to affect our good relations built over the years.
“We have been supporting and standing by each other and I think we should continue that way,’’ he said.
He told the foreign minister that so many Nigerians travel to Egypt every day, adding “we have 16 flights daily and seven daily flights from Cairo to Abuja.’’