Yar'Adua: Saudi authorities deny ministers landing clearance

2010-02-22
THE PUNCH Newspaper-Semiu Okanlawon


Indications emerged on Sunday that members of the Federal Executive Council who were delegated to visit President Umaru Yar’Adua in Saudi Arabia had been denied landing clearance by that country’s security.

Reliable sources told our correspondent on Sunday night that while members of the team were set for take-off at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, information came in that the Saudi Arabian aviation authorities had denied the presidential jet, which was to convey the visiting team, landing access at the Jeddah airport.

Although information was sketchy on the development as at 10pm, sources close to the team disclosed that the trip “had been postponed.”

A reliable source that is very close to the Presidency disclosed that each of the five ministers and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation was supposed to travel last night with two aides.

The source said, “Everybody was shocked when the information came from Saudi Arabia that the team had been denied landing clearance for the trip on Sunday night. They were supposed to leave at midnight on Sunday and everything was ready until the information was communicated to the ministers.

“Although no official reason was communicated, all I can tell you is that the refusal to grant landing clearance to the presidential jet may not be unconnected with the growing strained relationship between the Nigerian government and the Saudi authorities over the continued stay of President Yar’Adua in the Saudi hospital.”

The source added that because the President’s wife, Turai, had expressly requested for a “non-disclosure order form,” which forbids the King Faisal Specialist Hospital from either releasing information on the President’s health or allowing visitors, “the Saudi authorities are not comfortable with the fact that the people are beginning to think as if they are holding President Yar’Adua hostage. They are only following the instruction from the President’s wife.”

The FEC had on Wednesday February 17, raised the six-man team to visit the President with a view to ascertaining the state of his health.

The trip, which critics believed was devised as an escape route to avoid setting up a medical board to investigate the President’s health, had caused sharp division among members of the FEC.

While some FEC members believed the visit could reveal the true situation of the President’s health and consequently culminate in the invocation of Section 144 of the 1999 Constitution, others were of the view that the FEC could declare Yar’Adua incapacitated, without going through the trouble.

Members of the team are the Minister of Health, Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin; the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Kayode Adetokunbo; Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Sayyadi Abba-Ruma; and Foreign Affairs Minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe.

Others are Minister of Petroleum, Dr. Rilwanu Lukman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed. Four of the ministers are known to be die-hard loyalists of the ailing President.

The make-up of the team had compelled many to conclude that they would return to the country without giving a true account of the President’s state of health.

The delegation by FEC was the fifth to Saudi Arabia.

Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Muhammed Abba-Aji, had, two weeks ago, claimed that Nigerian government officials and others interested in visiting Yar’Adua in Saudi Arabia could not do so because the Saudi Arabian royal family was in charge of his protocol and security arrangement.

He had stated that the Saudi royal family’s handling of the President’s protocol and security arrangement was because of the fact that the section of King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Jeddah, where Yar’Adua is on admission, is the same reserved section where the King of Saudi Arabia stays whenever he is receiving medical attention.

Consequently, Abba-Aji said any information from the President was passed through Yar’Adua’s Chief Security Officer, Mr. Yusuf Tilde, and his Aide- de- Camp, Col. Mustapha Onoyiveta.

Abba-Aji had stated, “So, the security and protocol arrangements are controlled from the King’s Palace in Riyadh; so it is not like a general hospital that you can walk in or walk out of.

“Because of this, we are communicating regularly through the ADC and the CSO and he is aware of everything that is happening in the National Assembly.”

On November 29, 2009, Governors Bukola Saraki (Kwara); Gabriel Suswan (Benue); Alhaji Ibrahim Shema (Katsina); Alhaji Isa Yuguda (Bauchi) and the Economic Adviser to the President, Dr. Taminu Yakubu, had travelled to Jeddah without seeing the President.

Also, on December 26, 2009, the President’s Principal Secretary, Mr. David Edevbie, was reported to have taken the supplementary budget to Yar’Adua for his signature.

Also, on February 9, a delegation of members of the House of Representatives comprising Mr. Baba Shehu Agaie, Alhaji Ali Ndume, Mr. Patrick Ikhariale, Alhaji Moruf Fatai and Alhaji Jibril Adamu had travelled to Saudi Arabia. They returned to Nigeria after spending four days without seeing the President.

The Peoples Democratic Party had also on February 11 sent some of its leaders, including its National Chairman, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor; Deputy National Chairman, North, Dr. Bello Mohammed; National Secretary, Alhaji Abubakar Baraje, another official, Dr. Musa Babayo, Yuguda and Saraki.

They were all reported to have failed to see the President.

 

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