The United States President Joe Biden has announced a delegation that will attend the swearing-in of the former Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu as the 16th President of Nigeria at the Eagle Square, Abuja, on Monday.
The White House in a late Monday statement disclosed that the nine-member US delegation would be led by the Secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, Marcia Fudge.
The announcement came as the Federal Government tightened security across the Federal Capital Territory ahead of the inauguration ceremony.
Top security sources told our correspondents that security agencies had started raiding hideouts of criminals and thugs who could be used to foment trouble on the inauguration day.
Against the backdrop of protests by some Nigerians dissatisfied with the election victory of the former Lagos State governor, security agencies have deployed plainclothes and intelligence operatives to contain any outbreak of violence on the day of the inauguration.
With less than a week to D-Day, law enforcement agencies have been placed on red alert as they heightened security in preparation for the event which is expected to attract no fewer than 65 Heads of State, diplomats, other representatives of foreign governments and heads of international organizations and prominent Nigerians.
The PUNCH gathered on Tuesday that security agencies including the elite Presidential Guards Brigade, the police, Department of State Services operatives and men of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps had been given strict orders about their responsibilities in terms of general security, and protection of dignitaries.
It was gathered that more undercover and intelligence operatives had been dispatched to different parts of the city, including dark and vulnerable spots to ensure hitch-free activities.
A security source stated, ‘’We have been carrying out confidence-building and visibility patrols. By Friday, Eagle Square would be shut down. Because of the influx of people in Abuja, we have been combing and monitoring areas, including drinking joints and clubs.
‘’We do 24-hour patrols now. We have more men in plain clothes on duty. The security agencies are also raiding black points and any suspects found there will be arrested and cautioned.”
A senior officer disclosed that the ongoing operation was an inter-agency security collaboration to ensure that the inauguration recorded no incident.
“We have been ordered to ensure that security around Abuja is tight. We would be doing this alongside other security agencies. Some of us have been stationed at key points of entry into the FCT.
‘’Others would be in charge of traffic control and ensure there is no movement of vehicles in the restricted areas. You would soon be seeing patrol vehicles more often now.’’
When contacted on the security preparation for the inauguration, the Force Public Relations Officer, CSP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, referred to a recent warning by the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, against aggrieved political actors and other individuals attempting to scuttle the swearing-in ceremony.
The PUNCH reports that the IG gave the warning on May 15, during a press briefing at the Force Headquarters, Louis Edet House, Abuja.
The warning followed alleged utterances of some political actors and their alleged attempts at inciting the public to protest and cause national tension ahead of the May 29 inauguration ceremony.
The IG noted that adequate personnel and equipment had been deployed by the police for the activities leading to the ceremony, and also the D-Day.
US nine-member team
According to the White House statement, other members of the Presidential delegation include Chargé d’Affaires, U.S. Embassy, Abuja, Mr David Greene, United States Representative (D), California, Sydney Kamlager-Dove, Under-Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, U.S. Department of Commerce, Marisa Lago and General Commander of U.S. Africa Command, Michael E. Langley.
Also expected at the nation’s seventh transition are the Director of, U.S. Trade and Development Agency, Enoh Ebong, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of African Affairs, U.S. Department of State, Mary Phee, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs, National Security Council, Judd Devermont and the Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Africa, U.S. Agency for International Development, Monde Muyangwa.
Besides the United States, representatives of the United Kingdom, the European Union and several countries were expected at the inauguration of the president-elect on May 29.
The Spokesperson for the British High Commission, Dean Hurlock, Tuesday hinted that the UK government would be represented at the event.
He, however, explained that the list of British delegation had not been released by London as of Tuesday.
The Press and Information Officer, EU Delegation in Nigeria, Mr Modestus Uwalaka, could not immediately confirm the identities of officials that would grace the ceremony when contacted on Tuesday.
But the Media Officer at the Embassy of Finland, Abuja, Ms Ima Edem confirmed to The PUNCH that the Deputy Head of Mission in Nigeria, Ms Johanna Antila, would represent the Finnish government at the inauguration ceremony.
The French Embassy spokesperson, Onyinye Madu, told our correspondent she had no information on the French delegation to the event.
The inauguration programmes will begin on Thursday with the investiture of Tinubu with the Grand Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic and the Vice President-elect, Kashim Shettima, as the Grand Commander of Order of the Niger.
Former Kenya President, Uhuru Kenyatta, will deliver a lecture titled, ‘Deepening Democracy for Integration and Development’ on Saturday, May 27 before the inauguration on Monday.
According to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, who doubles as the Chairman, the Presidential Transition Council, Boss Mustapha, other activities include the Regimental Dinner in honour of the Commander-in-Chief at the Armed Forces Officers Mess slated for May 23; Valedictory Federal Executive Council Meeting at the Council Chambers inside the Presidential Villa on May 24; Public Lecture and Juma’at prayer at the National Mosque on May 26; Children’s Day Parade and Party on May 27 and an Inter-denominational Church Service at the National Christian Centre on May 28.
Also, the Inauguration Dinner/Gala Night at the State House Conference Centre is billed for May 28 while the inauguration/swearing-in of the president-elect and the vice president-elect will take place on May 29 accompanied by an inauguration parade at the Eagle Square.
There will also be a post-inauguration luncheon strictly for the President with his colleague Presidents, Heads of Government and guests at the State House Banquet Hall after the inauguration ceremony.
Blair counsels Tinubu
As the nation countdown to the transition of power to the next president, a former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, on Tuesday paid a visit to the president-elect at the Defence House, Abuja.
Blair’s visit is happening a week after the US States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, spoke with Tinubu on the phone.
The ex-British leader counselled the president-elect to brace up for the challenges ahead, saying running a government anywhere in the world was a tough job.
He, however, expressed his readiness to support the incoming administration to succeed in office.
According to him, Tinubu and other world leaders have difficult tasks on their hands, especially during this period of global turmoil.
“Being in government today anywhere in the world is tough. You have things happening around the world which affect you and for which you can’t do anything much,” he said.
Blair said since leaving office as the UK prime minister, he had been working with governments around the world to help them deliver on their mandates.
He also acknowledged that the Blair Institute has a project in Nigeria and felt it was incumbent upon him to meet the incoming president to understand the administration’s priorities.
“We would like to help in any way with your administration. We only need to know what the leadership priorities are and help in how to actualise them,” Blair told Tinubu.
Continuing, he commended Tinubu’s campaign focus on key areas of security, economy, agriculture and power, describing the intertwined nature of the areas as critical to the development of any society.
He also expressed optimism that with the appetite shown by investors to invest in Nigeria, the Tinubu administration could get the support it needs to spur economic development in the country.
Reacting to his concerns, the president-elect expressed appreciation to Blair for the visit and his offer to work with his administration.
He spoke of the shared vision between him and Tony Blair Institute in their priority areas, but underlined the importance of tackling investment challenges and the need for social investment to fight poverty.
“Yes, we are challenged. But where is our courage? We can eliminate ignorance, diseases and poverty in Africa. We must work hard to ensure democracy works for our people,” Tinubu said.
“We have to invest more, put technology in place and keep terrorists at bay because, without effective security, there is no guarantee investors will come,” he added