Abuja — President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday responded to strident criticisms over his decision to travel to Brazil while crises were raging in Yobe and Kaduna states, saying he did not abandon his responsibility.
Also the Minister of Information, Mr Labaran Maku in defense of the president’s trip to the Rio+20 summit on sustainable development which brings together 191 UN members, including 86 presidents and heads of government said that ‘the president can take decision from any part of the world.”
The decision by President Jonathan to travel to Brazil while churches were being bombed in Kaduna State has attracted criticisms from a cross section of Nigerians with the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria accusing him of insensitivity.
But in a statement issued from Brazil, Special Adviser to the President on Communications, Mr Reuben Abati, said before leaving for the United Nation’s Earth Summit Rio+20 in Brazil, the president met with security chiefs and he was confident that security agencies were on top of the situation before his departure, Tuesday.
Why Jonathan attended the confab —Abati
According to Abati, the president needed to attend the conference because of its importance to Nigeria and because commitments had already been made on his attendance.
The Special Adviser noted: “The conference, Rio+20, is very important and nobody can doubt that. The issues that will be discussed at this conference are also issues that are relevant to Nigeria’s interest. It is also an opportunity for Nigeria to promote its interest in terms of its place in global community.
“The crisis in Kaduna and Yobe occurred almost on the eve of the President’s departure for this event and commitments have been made. In any event, it is not as if government has abandoned the situation at home. Security agencies are there, they are on top of the situation.
“Before the President left, he met with security chiefs. The business of leadership cannot just stop because there is a crisis there.
“I think what we can do is to appeal to the opposition not to always play politics with everything; that is the major challenge we face, people always want to play politics with everything.
“If the President had refused to come to Rio, the same persons will turn around and say that there is an important conference attended by world leaders and the Nigerian President stayed away from it. He is here serving the interest of Nigerians, it is not as if he has abandoned his responsibilities.”
Jonathan can take decision from anywhere —Maku
Speaking in the same vein, Minister of Information, Mr Labaran Maku said that ‘the president can take decision from any part of the world.”
Addressing State House correspondents after the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting in Abuja, Maku said the absence of the president has not created any leadership vacuum as Vice President Namadi Sambo is constitutionally empowered to take over the leadership of the country once the president is not around.
And to demonstrate that the vice president is in charge while the president is away in Brazil, the Information minister pointed to the convening of a meeting of security chiefs, Tuesday.
According to Maku, those who have chosen to find fault with the president’s trip to Brazil are ‘unpatriotic’ and have refused to accept that the world is a global village.
“The President can take decision from anywhere in the world. His absence will not hamper his power to act. The Vice President effectively takes charge of affairs once the president is out of Nigeria and he is in touch with the President on hourly basis. There is no vacuum. The most important thing is that the president and the vice work harmoniously and are in constant touch.
On removal of fuel subsidy
The Information minister also spoke on the need for government to remove subsidy on petrol as a way of checking the corruption in the sector. According to him, as long as government continues to subsidize petroleum products, the corruption in the sector will continue.
He said the country had to await the investigations being carried out by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on those indicted by the House adhoc committee that investigated the subsidy regime before further actions.
“On subsidy, let all the chicken come home to roost. It is still being investigated, it is a long process of political, judicial and technical issues going on”.
“We hope Nigerians are getting to know that subsidy is an albatross on the nation, for as long as the bag of sugar (subsidy) is on the floor, ants, cockroaches will keep coming. That is why President Jonathan called for the removal of the subsidy but we all lambasted him until he beat a retreat.
“We have to replicate what is happening in the agric sector. “Right now fertilizers contractors have disappeared from the ministry of agriculture. Is now between the supplier and the farmer. We now need to ask, is the subsidy helping Nigerians and if not we need to withdraw it now and use it for the development of Nigeria” he said.
“Let’s not miss the real subject matter, let’s wipe out corruption by removing subsidy. With all these going on, there is need to return to that debate”, he said.