By Johnbosco Agbakwuru and Peter Okutu
ABUJA — FORTY-eight hours after ailing former Vice-President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme was airlifted out of the country in an air ambulance, the Presidency has disclosed that the Federal Government is funding the cost of treatment of the elder statesman.
Sources had told Vanguard that the Federal Government had initially committed itself to only bearing the cost of the air ambulance as a source in the presidency had said that, that was the extent to which the Federal Government could go.
However, Presidential spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu confirmed in a tweet yesterday that the Federal Government was now funding cost of the treatment.
SGF, Mustapha visits Ekwueme
Also yesterday, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha visited the ailing former Vice President Ekwueme in the hospital in London.
A statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu in Abuja, yesterday stated that upon approval by President Buhari, Dr Ekwueme was rushed to the hospital in an air ambulance in what was described as a critical condition.
According to him: “The SGF, who was in London before Dr Ekwueme’s arrival, was received by his spouse, Mrs. Helen Ekwueme on behalf of the Ekwueme family. Mr. Mustapha told the Ekwueme family that the President and all Nigerians are praying for the speedy recovery of the elder statesman, adding that he believed that the doctors were doing their best.”
The former Vice President has been critically ill since the early morning of Saturday October 29, 2017 when he collapsed at his residence at Independence Layout in Enugu. He was rushed to the Intensive Care Unit of Memfys Hospital, Trans-Ekulu, Enugu for Neurosurgery.
Buhari begins official trip to S-East
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari is today commencing his first official trip to the South-East just as his charm offensive towards the region got further steel yesterday when the Secretary to the Government of the Federation visited ailing former vice-president, Dr. Alex Ekwueme.
Ahead of the commencement of the presidential swing through Ebonyi, Enugu and Anambra States, the presidency has laid out 25 major road projects it claimed to be funding including the arterial Enugu Onitsha Expressway and the Enugu- Port-Harcourt Expressway.
The president’s trip to Ebonyi with first stop in Enugu is the first time since the 2015 presidential election, the geo-political region he got the least votes in the election that threw him up as president.
The president has also been flayed for not giving the region the commensurate number of appointments in line with the federal character principle with stakeholders in the region, alleging that the region is completely left out from the top hierarchy of the country’s security architecture.
However, presidency officials including the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed have lately claimed that the region has the highest number of senior ministerial positions as compared with other geopolitical zones.
Ahead of the visit yesterday, Governor Dave Umahi sought to play down any political significance to the visit, saying it was essentially to commission projects executed by the state government.
“Mr President has helped us so much in the area of agriculture. At every opportunity that I have to talk, I have always commended the CBN governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele; the ministers of Agriculture, Finance, and Solid Minerals. They have helped us tremendously to revamp our agricultural programmes and solid minerals in Ebonyi State,” he told reporters.
“I believe that Mr President will be coming to see how far we have fared with the assistance he gave to us. Of course, he gave to other states. But you know the Bible says on the last day many shall be unthankful. I am not like those who are unthankful. We have to say where Mr President has helped us.
“And so, he will be coming to see how much we have been able to manage the state; he will be able to see also the level of marginalization that we suffered before the creation of Ebonyi State and then compare side by side what we have been able to achieve; the agitation for this state’s creation whether we have been able to justify it or not,” he said.
Following the visit to Ebonyi, the president is expected to visit Anambra where he would grace the rally of the All Progressives Congress, APC governorship candidate, Dr. Tony Nwoye on Wednesday.