AHEAD of the inauguration of the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who takes over as Nigeria’s President on Monday, foreign guests and other dignitaries have started arriving at the Federal Capital Territory for the ceremony.
Officials at the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria confirmed on Saturday that the authority received a memo from the Federal Government on the expected arrival of presidents and other VIPs, who had started arriving at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
It was also gathered that though foreign nationals had started arriving at Abuja since Monday, the number of visitors coming through the international and presidential wings of the airport increased significantly on Saturday.
A senior Canadian official told Sunday PUNCH that the country’s (Canada) delegation would enter Abuja Saturday night.
It was gathered that the Canadian Government would be represented by the Minister of Housing, Diversity and Inclusion, Ahmed Hussen.
Though the time of arrival of the United Kingdom delegation could not be ascertained, our correspondent learnt that the delegation might come in on Sunday. The UK delegation will be headed by the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for the inauguration.
The delegation includes Minister of State for Development and Africa at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Andrew Mitchell; the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Nigeria and Special Envoy on Girls’ Education, Helen Grant, and the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Dr Richard Montgomery.
From the United States, those on the delegation include; Chargé d’Affaires, US Embassy Abuja, David Greene; United States Representative, California, Sydney Kamlager-Dove, Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade, US Department of Commerce; Marisa Lago; Commander of US Africa Command, General Michael Langley, and Director, US Trade and Development Agency, Enoh Ebong.
Others are Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of African Affairs, US Department of State, Mary Phee; Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs, National Security Council, Judd Devermont, and Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Africa, US Agency for International Development, Monde Muyangwa.
Speaking on the arrival of VIPs for the inauguration of Nigeria’s 16th President, FAAN’s Head of Corporate Affairs, NAIA, Oluwakayode Adeyeoluwa, told one of our correspondents that a memo was sent to the authority about the high influx of VIPs into Abuja beginning from Saturday.
Adeyeoluwa said, “Of course, we should expect that. Dignitaries and possibly Presidents have started coming, because by the memo that came to my table, it shows that they’ve started arriving.
“They started coming into the country since last week, but it peaked today (Saturday) based on the influx at the international and Presidential wings of the Abuja airport.”
When asked if he had an idea on the Presidents that had already arrived, Adeyeoluwa replied, “No, I didn’t follow-up with that, because those categories of dignitaries will come through the Presidential wing of the airport, and that is not under our jurisdiction.”
India sends delegation
In a related development, the Indian government has sent its Defence Minister, Mr Rajnath Singh, as a Special Envoy of the Prime Minister to attend the inauguration of Nigeria’s President-elect.
The Indian Embassy in Nigeria disclosed in a statement on Saturday that Singh will arrive in Abuja on Sunday for the occasion.
“Mr. Singh is accompanied by a high-level delegation comprising senior officials from the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of External Affairs of India,” the statement partly read.
Heavy security at Eagle Square
Meanwhile, operatives of the Nigeria Police, the Armed Forces, the Department of State Services, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps and the Federal Road Safety Corps, among others, have taken over Eagle Square, venue of the inauguration.
Military personnel, police officers and other security agents deployed for the match past parade continued their dress rehearsals at the venue.
During a tour of the city centre by one of our correspondents, it was observed that major roads leading to the Central Area of the Federal Capital Territory were partially cordoned off by security operatives.
The Central Business District began to look like a ghost town due to the presence of heavy security operatives. Several helicopters were also seen hovering over the city for aerial surveillance on Friday and Saturday.
Similarly, vehicles belonging to the Presidential Guards Brigade and the Nigeria Police Force were seen moving around the city centre, blaring sirens.
Sunday PUNCH also observed that Eagle Square had been deserted by traders, as the usual business activities on the premises had disappeared.
The surroundings of the federal secretariat were also quiet, as civil servants were asked to stay off work from Friday until Tuesday.
At the Fraser Suites Hotel, one our correspondents observed the presence of four armed police officers stationed at the entrance and an NSCDC squad car in the parking lot and a couple of military officers in the hotel lobby on Saturday.
Hotel security officers conducted car bomb checks upon entry and also directed guests to go through the metal detectors, as well as put their luggage through the detectors.
Some foreign nationals, believed to be delegates of European and Asian countries were spotted moving in and out of major Abuja hotels. The front desk officer confirmed that the hotel was fully booked and would only be available after the inauguration.
At the Transcorp Hilton, several vehicles both of the Nigeria Police Force and the NSCDC were stationed at the junction of Aguiyi Ironsi Street where the hotel is located.
Four officers of both security agencies manned the street and took turns in patrol. While two armed officers were spotted at the exit and entry points of the hotel.
A hotel employee confirmed that the hotel was fully booked, adding that some of the clients included top officials of the Nigerian government as well as foreign dignitaries.
“Yes, we have quite a number of VIP guests, including delegates of foreign governments, but that is the most I can say,” the employee, who pleaded anonymity, stated.
Meanwhile, the police deployed personnel to be on guard for the protection of Aso Rock Presidential Villa and provide security around the Eagle Square.
The personnel are to man all borders, seaports and airports for the purpose of achieving a hitch-free ceremony on Monday.
Our correspondent on Sunday reports that the Force Public Relations Officer, CSP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, earlier disclosed this in a statement on Thursday.
Personnel for the inauguration were drawn from Special Forces namely, the Police Mobile Force, Counter-Terrorism Unit, Special Protection Unit, Anti-Bomb Squad, FIB-Intelligence Response Team, and the Special Tactical Squad, among others.
Also deployed by the police were helicopters and drones for aerial surveillance in Abuja and its environs, as well as water cannons and armoured personnel carriers.
The Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, said police officers and other security operatives were currently located along routes to-and-from the inauguration ground.
However, bands of merrymakers have also besieged the nation’s capital to add colour and melody to the inauguration.
The video of a band entertaining people at the Abuja airport on Saturday was shared on social media.
The drummers were seen at the airport welcoming guests with songs and dances as they disembarked from their aircraft.
Fight corruption, unite Nigerians, Buhari, ex-Kenyan president tell Tinubu
In another development, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and former Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, on Saturday tasked the President-elect to work towards uniting Nigerians irrespective of ethnic and political affiliation.
Both leaders gave the charge during the Inauguration Lecture at the International Conference Centre in Abuja.
This was contained in the statement issued on Saturday by Tinubu’s media officer, Tunde Rahman.
In his keynote address, Kenyatta pleaded with the incoming president to unite the country irrespective of ethnic, political and religious cleavages that might exist.
“The contest is now over and the hard work of building a prosperous and unified Nigeria now begins. Upon assuming the office of President, you will be wise to transcend from tactical politics of an election and assume your role as Nigeria’s vision bearer,” Kenyatta said.
The President also re-echoed Kenyatta’s appeal, stressing that the inauguration lecture highlighted the imperatives of democratic governance, nation-building and various challenges confronting the socio-political fabrics of Nigeria.
He spoke extensively on the significance of democracy in driving Nigeria’s sustainable development.
Tinubu, who was represented by Shettima, used the opportunity to call on Nigerians to stand together with the incoming administration to birth a better country.
Meanwhile, the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar, has told the President-elect not to occupy his mind with the thought of winning the next election, but on how to develop the country and the next generation.
The Sultan spoke at an event where the former Kenyan President delivered an inaugural lecture titled, ‘Deepening Democracy for Integration and Development’.
Atiku, Obi shun inauguration
In another development, the Peoples Democratic Party presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, is not expected at the inauguration.
This was disclosed to Sunday PUNCH by the Media Adviser to the former Vice President, Mr Paul Ibe.
Giving reasons why his principal will be absent from the event, Ibe denied knowledge of Atiku’s invitation to the event.
The former Vice President, he said, would be in Yola, the Adamawa State capital, on Monday for the commencement ceremony of the American University of Nigeria, a school he founded in 2003.
In the same vein, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, has turned down the prospect of attending the May 29 inauguration of Tinubu.
Obi, who spoke through his media aide, Emeka Obasi, told one of our correspondents that it would be absurd for him to be seen attending the inauguration of the same person he believed didn’t win the 2023 presidential election.
The development is coming in the wake of Obi and his running mate, Datti Baba-Ahmed’s, visit to Kaduna on Saturday for the fathia (wedding ceremony) of his deputy campaign director, Alhaji Augie Mohammed’s daughter.