The consular-general in the Nigerian embassy in Saudi Arabia, Ahmed Umar, neither side-stepped protocol nor accorded preferential treatment to the family of former Vice President Namadi Sambo over that of President Muhammadu Buhari when both arrived for the lesser Hajj (Umrah) in Saudi Arabia.
A senior consular official, who is privy to the protocol arrangements for both families, disclosed that contrary to media reports that the consular-general is a protégé of Sambo and that the former vice president influenced his appointment, Umar was appointed to his present position based on his competence and experience.
The source, who craved for anonymity, also denied insinuations that Umar snubbed the wife of the president and her children, saying that the consular-general joined the Nigerian ambassador in Saudi Arabia to receive Buhari’s wife, Aisha, and her children at the airport.
It was gathered that both families had arrived in Saudi Arabia earlier this week for the Umrah and while Aisha Buhari and her five children were allotted a two-bedroom accommodation, the former vice president was allotted an eight-room apartment.
But the source said the accommodation arrangements for both families were the prerogative of Saudi authorities and that any guest was at liberty to get another accommodation at his or her expense if dissatisfied with the official arrangement.
On the alleged preferential treatment given to the former vice president by the consular-general, the source also said Sambo actually paid for his hotel accommodation, save for the fact that he was ferried from the airport, the same privilege accorded to Hajia Buhari.
“Then the issue of the wife of the president paying for her accommodation is a normal practice, and the same thing applies to other wives of presidents who visit Saudi Arabia when they are not satisfied with the accommodation provided.
“In fact, we tried to get her a much better accommodation but that was what was provided by the Saudi Arabian authorities.
“So, this is the true state of things and not the other way round as reported. It is also not true that the consular-general is a stooge of the former vice president; they met each other when he had already been appointed to his present position,” he explained.
The source further claimed that the embassy extended all the required protocol due to President Buhari’s wife.