By Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA — It was nothing short of a melodrama at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, yesterday, between State House correspondents and the Federal Government over the many foreign trips of President Muhammadu Buhari during a press briefing.
Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information, who justified the trips, said they were necessary to bring the country back on the track of development and growth.
According to him, Nigeria was a pariah state under former President Goodluck Jonathan.
He said that under Jonathan’s watch, corruption permeated the country, such that foreign investors deserted it.
He stated that it was necessary to tell Nigerians that the trips had started paying off since investors’ confidence in the country had been restored.
Mohammed spoke during a press briefing at the end of the Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting in Abuja.
He said: “You do not run a country by being isolated. The personal presence of Mr. President in many of these fora is important because before now, we were almost a pariah state. And the issues that have been driving investments away from this country are terrorism and corruption.
“One thing that nobody can fault this President for is his determination and strength of purpose in resolving these matters.
“Mr. President’s presence in many of these fora is highly crucial even in fixing our economy back at home.”
Mohammed’s counterpart in Environment, Amina Mohammed, corroborated the position, saying the President needed not to run the country by staying at home, especially when he had a deputy and a cabinet of ministers to look after home affairs.
Journalists had waited patiently to be briefed on the outcome of the Federal Executive Meeting, FEC, which routinely meets to take decision on matters of government.
As usual, yesterday’s meeting was chaired by president Buhari with his vice, professor Yemi Osinabjo and most of the 36 ministers in attendance.
By a little after midday, the meeting had ended with the Minister of Information, Mr. Lai Mohammed, his counterpart in Environment, Amina Mohammed in company with Minister of State for Environment, Usman Ibrahim come into the press gallery inside the villa to brief Journalists.
The briefing was reduced to a two item issue: Climate change and President’s many foreign trips so far, anchored by the Minister of Environment.
Done with the briefing, journalists felt that there were more pressing issues at the moment such as the fall of Naira and 2016 budget, amongst others which an important body as FEC should have dwelt on other than reviewing or deliberating on climate change.
Apparently surprised by the insistence and probing question, Information Minister Mohammed, said he was embarrassed and shocked, noting that Nigerians needed to know the benefits of the presidential trips.
Also, speaking on the presidential foreign trips, the environment minister stated that a review of the trips vi-sa-via the benefits was made by the council.
“The Honorable Minister for Foreign Affairs gave a brief of four foreign trips that the President has made towards the end of last year. So, we are starting with the trip that happened between 22 and 23 of November last year in Tehran and this was to do with Third Gas Exporting Countries Forum.
“This, of course, as you would expect is very important to us in that we intend to have common interest supported by member countries in terms of making sure that our policies are more coordinated and coherent.
‘’The strategies at the international level can bring in the investments we require for all of us. Also to promote national gas consumption as the cleanest fossil fuel,” she said.
Meanwhile, Vanguard learned that President Buhari is due for more foreign trips on Friday and early next week.
He is likely to leave Abuja on Friday for Egypt, return on Saturday and leave for Saudi Arabia and Qatar early next week.