Embattled Nigerian Diplomat Fights Deportation From Venezuela
On July 19, 2012, Venezuelan authorities arrested Olarotimi Ajayi, a senior Nigerian diplomat who works at the Nigerian embassy in Caracas, Venezuela. Mr. Ajayi was picked up as he arrived in Caracas from a trip to the United States where he sat a Foreign Service promotion exam.
The embattled diplomat maintains that his troubles began when he wrote a petition to the Nigerian government in August, 2011 detailing a series of inappropriate behavior by Felix Oboro, the Nigerian ambassador to Venezuela. Mr. Ajayi also stated that his petition triggered an investigation into the ambassador’s affairs followed by a high level meeting between embassy staff.
Investigations by SaharaReporters revealed that Mr. Ajayi and Ambassador Oboro had frequently fought over the former’s allegations that the ambassador engaged in underhanded dealings and misappropriated embassy funds.
A Nigerian government source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told SaharaReporters that Mr. Ajayi was being recalled to Nigeria for making official embassy documents public via several online publications.
Several sources told SaharaReporters that the diplomat is currently being held by Venezuelan immigration officials in preparation for deportation to Nigeria. His lawyer, Dorys Ramirez, confirmed that Mr. Ajayi is currently undergoing deportation procedure.
An embassy source in Caracas disclosed that Venezuelan authorities had on two previous occasions invited Mr. Ajayi to voluntarily return to Nigeria, but the diplomat reportedly rebuffed the suggestion. That refusal led to his being picked up on July 19.
Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had recalled Mr. Ajayi as early as February 2012, but he refused to go back. The Nigerian embassy then stopped paying his salary as well as the rent at his official residence. His landlord subsequently reported him for failure to pay rent.
On May 21, 2012, the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent a memo to Mr. Ajayi notifying him that, since he will be turning sixty on July 8, 2012, he was considered officially retired from service.
However, Mr. Ajayi claims that the ministry has not retired another embassy staffer who was supposed to retire in March 2012, but continues to work in Caracas. He insists that the ministry was targeting him for political reasons.
Curiously, despite being recalled in February and the memo of retirement sent to him in May, Mr. Ajayi was allowed to take a promotion exam conducted by the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the US.
A source at the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abuja contended that Mr. Ajayi’s troubles are linked to his outspoken criticism of Ambassador Oboro.
SaharaReporters obtained a memo from the Foreign Affairs Ministry dated February 2, 2012, directing Mr. Oboro to return $74,029.08 in embassy funds that he had spent on unauthorized medical expenses for an over-aged dependent. The memo also ordered him to end the services of improperly recruited embassy staff.
Sources close to Mr. Ajayi disclosed that the embattled diplomat fears for his safety if he returned to Nigeria. One source explained that Mr. Ajayi was mounting a strong campaign to dissuade Venezuelan authorities from deporting him.
In the course of that campaign, certain materials have been leaked to the public which Nigerian authorities now claim are “official secrets.”
A source at the Caracas embassy told SaharaReporters that Mr. Ajayi and his supporters were exaggerating and misrepresenting some of the circumstances surrounding his current plight.