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.