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.
Jensen is currently on a working visit to Nigeria and 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; a delegation which included Danish Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Torben Gettermann 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 told The Trent 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 reporter.
“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 to The Trent 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 to 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 on a trade mission as well as to inaugurate the new office of the Denmark Consulate-General in Lagos. At the inauguration ceremony on Monday in Lagos, he announced his government’s renewed commitment to renew 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. 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 also 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.
Denmark’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. Kristian Jensen has commended The Trent for our story on this incident and confirmed that indeed an accidental shot was fired in Aso Rock as reported by our newspaper. He also confirmed that the trade meeting with the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo held after the incident.
Jensen made this confirmation using micro-blogging website, Twitter where he wrote in Danish, “God historie, men faktisk et ret uskadeligt vådeskud….. Gode møder og erhvervssamarbejde #dkpol #dkbiz.” Translated to English, “Good story, but actually a pretty harmless accidental shot.. … Good meetings and business collaboration #dkpol #dkbiz.”
— Kristian Jensen (@Kristian_Jensen) February 23, 2016
The Nigerian government is yet to comment on this incident.