BY OKEY NDIRIBE
ABUJA — THE Federal Government, yesterday, said it was determined to ensure a hitch-free inauguration of President Goodluck Jonathan and 26 state governors on Sunday.
It said it has put all machinery in motion to ensure that the October 1, 2010 Independence Day twin bomb explosions that smeared the country’s celebration did not recur.
As a result, three days to the inauguration, anti-terrorist and bomb squads have taken over the Eagle Square venue and surroundings to ensure the place is free of explosive devices.
Yesterday, the government, which has raised 14 sub-committees to oversee successful celebration, issued elaborate guidelines covering security arrangements for Heads of State and Governments visiting the country for the swearing in of President Jonathan.
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Martin Umohoibhi said in a statement he read to the diplomatic community that all visitors to the country apart from members of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, must hold valid passports that are not less than three months from expiry dates.
He said they were also expected to obtain visas from the Nigerian missions in their respective countries, adding that “heads of State and Government are advised to arrive on Saturday.”
Ambassador Umohoibhi said that all heads of state and their delegations attending the inauguration ceremony would be received into the country through the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja and Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos; noting that they would also depart through these airports.
The statement said: “Full protocol facilities will be in place at the airports to assist heads of state and government and their delegations on arrival and departure.”
It also indicated that all foreign leaders arriving by private aircraft would be conveyed from the tarmac to their motorcades through a silent guard of honour while all aircraft must obtain flight clearance prior to their departure to Nigeria. It said such requests should be channeled through the respective missions or directly to Protocol Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abuja.
Ambassador Umohoibhi noted that the overall security of visiting heads of states would be the responsibility of the VIP protection unit, the Nigeria Police and other security agencies in the country, adding that on May 29, the visiting heads of state would be conveyed by a bus to Eagle Square.
The Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary explained that the elaborate arrangement put in place was to ensure that the event was hitch-free added that the unfortunate bomb blast during last year’s 50th anniversary celebrations would never be repeated.
Security tightened at Eagle Square
Meanwhile, security has been tightened at the Eagles Square, venue of the event. Since Monday, soldiers and policemen from the Anti-Terrorist Squad have taken over the venue for the swearing in ceremony. Scores of soldiers were seen participating in parade rehearsals at the Square yesterday. Police teams have also been deployed at both ends of the street with entrances into the Square. Men of the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, were also seen ordering motorists who parked their vehicles close to the fence of the Square to park elsewhere.
The arrangement was obviously put in place by the security sub-committee headed by National Security Adviser to the President, General Owoeye Azazi. The Committee is believed to be working towards ensuring a smooth inauguration ceremony given the background of fears that some faceless groups might attempt to disrupt the ceremony.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, who is the Chairman of the 2011 Presidential Inauguration Committee, told journalists during a media briefing that 14 sub-committees were set up to ensure the occasion was hitch-free. Each of the sub-committees is headed by a minister with permanent secretaries, representatives of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and Nigerians from other walks of life.
Museveni, Deby and Richards, others coming
Leading world leaders, Presidents and Heads of State are being expected. They include Yoweri Museveni of Uganda; George Maxwell Richards of Trinidad and Tobago, and Idris Deby of Chad.