The Nigerian government on Monday summoned U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington, to explain reported remarks by President Donald Trump describing Africa, Haiti and El-Salvador as "shithole."
Reuters reported that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, confirmed in a text message that Mr. Symington was summoned to clarify the disparaging statement allegedly made by Mr. Trump --but withheld further details about the invitation.
David Brooks, a spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, did not immediately respond to PREMIUM TIMES request seeking further details about the summon Monday night.
Mr. Trump reportedly singled out Haiti, El Salvador and parts of Africa as "shithole countries" during a meeting with U.S. lawmakers about immigration Thursday, according to the Washington Post.
The comments came during a White House meeting held to explore a bipartisan immigration deal, said the Washington Post, which broke the news.
The paper reported that Mr. Trump favoured immigrants from Norway and Asia, saying they help the country economically. But he wondered "why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?"
"Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out," the Washington Post quoted Mr. Trump as venting.
But the president denied ever describing any race as coming from "shithole countries" in a Friday morning tweet.
"Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Never said "take them out." Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings - unfortunately, no trust!" Mr. Trump said.
The controversy came about three weeks after the New York Times reported that Mr. Trump slammed Nigerians during a June 2017 cabinet meeting that they don't "go back to their huts" once they enter America.
The paper also said Mr. Trump castigated Haitians as people living with AIDS and Afghanistan as a terrorist-infested country.
The White House denied the comments at the time, saying Mr. Trump did not slander any country.
At least two Republican senators came out in defence on Mr. Trump at separate TV interviews on Sunday, saying they were at the meeting but did not hear Mr. Trump use the derogatory quotes attributed to him.
Mr. Trump's latest comments drew worldwide outrage this weekend, especially from leaders of black countries.
Mr. Trump's critics also played up statistics that show how African migrants in the U.S. have a higher number of bachelor's degree holders than Americans themselves.
"The language of @realDonaldTrump that the African continent, Haiti and El Salvador are "shithole countries" is extremely unfortunate," said Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo in a tweet Saturday afternoon. "We are certainly not a "shithole country". We will not accept such insults, even from a leader of a friendly country, no matter how powerful."
The AU swiftly condemned the statement as racist and demanded an apology.
On Monday, reports emerged that South African authorities summoned the U.S. diplomat based in the country to explain the comments credited to their president.
In Nigeria, the controversy has also pitted the two major political parties against each other. While the opposition Peoples Democratic Party sees Mr. Trump's alleged comments as a consequence of President Muhammadu Buhari's disparaging comments about Nigerians abroad; the ruling All Progressives Congress says all well-meaning citizens should unite in their condemnation of Mr. Trump.