Yar'Adua: Nigeria mocked in South Africa

2010-02-04
THE PUNCH Newspaper- Obinna Ezeobi and John Alechenu


The refusal of President Umaru Yar’Adua to hand over power to Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan has turned Nigeria into a laughing stock at an international conference in Cape Town, South Africa.

One of the speakers at the Mining Indaba Conference and a global economist, Dr. David Hale, told participants on Tuesday that Yar’Adua was very ill and might pass on within six months.

He was not done with the comment as he went on to add that Nigeria would prepare for another election in six months after the expected passage of the President.

He said, “In Nigeria, the President has been in Saudi Arabia for nearly three months for medical treatment and he refused to hand over to the vice-president, even though the people are calling for it.

“He is suffering from acute heart problems and should be dead in six months. So, in Nigeria, there should be a new election in six months after the death of the President.”

The remarks by Hale, who is the Chairman of David Hale Global Economics, surprisingly elicited loud laughter from the participants and protests from members of the Nigerian team at the event.

Delivering the keynote address titled “Global Outlook,” Hale also said that Nigeria, which needed at least 20,000 megawatts for stable electricity supply, however, regretted that the nation was only able to generate 2,000MW.

In a country by country analysis, the respected economist said that Nigeria’s poor power supply made it a difficult environment to invest in.

Hale, whose clients include investment management firms, major hedge funds and multinational companies, is based in Chicago, United States.

He is a member of the National Association of Business Economists and the New York Society of Security Analysts.

The participants comprised mining executives from across the world, investors, analysts, financiers, journalists, policy makers, etcetera.

Speaking at the Nigerian Day at the Indaba Conference, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Solid Minerals, Senator George Sekibo, described Hale’s comments as unfortunate and highly condemnable.

Sekibo said that Nigeria would make its displeasure on Hale’s comments known to the organisers of conference and demand an apology .

According to him, the Nigerian government will be advised to also take up the matter diplomatically when the delegation returns home.

Sekibo said, “It is important for participants at the conference to note that Nigeria has taken giant strides in mining, especially in the last few years; that is in addition to providing the much needed infrastructure for investors’ participation.

“We assure you that Nigeria is stable. There is not going to be any war anywhere, there is not going to be any division anywhere.

“Mr. President is not feeling very well now, every person can have such a situation. And I believe he will come out of it. Nigeria will still stand as a very strong country.”

Another member of the Nigerian team, Alhalji Suleiman Kassim, also condemned the claim by Hale that Nigeria’s total electricity output was only 2000MW.

Kassim, who is the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, explained that Nigeria was generating over 3000MW and was hoping to increase it to 6000MW.

He maintained that since Indaba was a professional conference for stakeholders in the mining industry to relate, it should not be exploited by “uninformed political commentators” to deride a sovereign nation.

Meanwhile, the Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Mohammed Abba-Aji, is to appear before the Senate on Thursday (today).

The Peoples Democratic Party caucus in the Senate is also scheduled to meet at the official residence of the President of the Senate, Mr. David Mark.

Mark, who announced this during plenary on Wednesday, did not give reasons for Abba-Aji’s invitation.

It was, however, gathered that it was a fallout of the closed- door session which the Senate held with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, on January 21, 2010 over the President’s health.

Abba-Aji is expected to, among other things, answer questions as to whether or not the President asked him to transmit a letter to the National Assembly on his behalf.

A national newspaper (not THE PUNCH) had reported that the President wrote a letter to the National Assembly in line with the provisions of Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution before he travelled to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The newspaper report said the Presidential aide did not transmit the letter for unknown reasons.


 

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