President Muhammadu Buhari has paid a condolence visit to the new President of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, on the passing of his predecessor, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
During the visit, President Buhari expressed his condolences and that of Nigeria to Sheikh Mohamed and congratulated him on his election as President.
He assured the new UAE leader of his determination to do more to ensure the growth of the strategic partnership between Nigeria and the Asian country.
President Buhari also hopes that under Sheikh Mohamed the two countries will continue to actively champion a vision of sustainable security, strengthen counterterrorism cooperation, facilitate trade and investment, and promote prosperity and development.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, said in a statement on Saturday that in the seven years of the Buhari administration, the two countries “have actively conducted bilateral dialogues”.
These dialogues, according to him, have led to several agreements and Memoranda of Understanding that have paved the way for further cooperation, mutual understanding and progress in many aspects of their bilateral relations.
President Buhari had left Nigeria for the UAE on Thursday, six days after the death of Sheikh Khalifa.
Sheikh Khalifa, who was rarely seen in public died on Friday, May 13 aged 73 after battling illness for several years.
The Ministry of Presidential Affairs announced 40 days of mourning, with flags at half-mast from the day of his death and work was suspended in the public and private sector for the first three days.
Sheikh Khalifa took over as the UAE’s second president in November 2004, succeeding his father as the 16th ruler of Abu Dhabi, the richest of the federation’s seven emirates.
He has rarely been seen in public since 2014, when he had surgery following a stroke, although he has continued to issue rulings. The cause of death was not immediately released.
The UAE, a former British protectorate that was founded in 1971, has gone from a desert outpost to a booming state in its short history, fuelled by its oil wealth and Dubai’s rise as a trading and financial centre.
The Arab world’s second-biggest economy behind Saudi Arabia has also begun to wield growing political influence, filling a space ceded by traditional powers such as Egypt, Iraq and Syria.
The country of 10 million also joined military campaigns in Libya and Yemen and broke ranks with much of the Arab world to establish ties with Israel in 2020.
The bearded Sheikh Khalifa had cut a frail figure on his occasional public appearances, while his Sheikh Mohamed hosted world leaders and led diplomatic forays abroad.
The late Sheikh Khalifa, who had no formal higher education, led the UAE as Dubai emerged as a tourism and trade hub and Abu Dhabi pumped oil as a key OPEC player.
He came to the rescue of Dubai when it was hit by the global financial crisis in 2009, extending a multi-billion-dollar lifeline to the debt-laden emirate.
Presidential aide Garba Shehu has refuted claims that his principal pays less attention to victims of attacks in the country.
He spoke on Friday while responding to the debates generated following President Muhammadu Buhari’s condolence visit to the United Arab Emirates over the death of the country’s president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
“Those Nigerians should be told that they should look at all of the facts. I have accompanied the president to Sokoto on a condolence visit after a major incident,” the aide said on Channels Television’s Politics Today.
“However, it is unfair also to make the conclusion wrongly that he had not paid attention or had not visited. He had been to Maiduguri quite a number of times,” he added.
He said: “I accompanied him to Zamfara. He spoke to the governor, parliamentarians, religious and traditional leaders.
“I accompanied the President to Benue State. He addressed the governor in the Government House, Makurdi, after a major incident. I accompanied him to Jos after a crisis.
“So, did the President go to all the places where there have been incidents of violence or killings? No, he did not go.”
“It depends on what Nigerians choose to look at. The president has been responsive and he has been discharging the obligations that rest upon him as the president and commander-in-chief, in dealing with all of these matters. He has not cut short in any way.
“The point I want to make is that the administration has been very responsive. You just mentioned the railway incident in Kaduna, and this last week, the incident in Kano of an explosion.
“The vice-president of Nigeria was in both places. This country has one presidency. If the president is not there on account of engagements and the vice-president is there, let us take it that the presidency of Nigeria has attended to those matters.”
Buhari is expected back to the country this weekend.
The presidency says negotiations are ongoing to rescue those abducted on the Kaduna-Abuja rail line earlier in the year.
Presidential aide Garba Shehu said this on Friday while reacting to the suspension of the resumption of operations on the rail track.
“Of course, we are aware that there has been resistance from family members of those who have been taken captive,” he said when he featured on Channels Television’s Politics Today.
“This is expected. This then should act as a pressure on all of the people who are involved in the ongoing discussion with the terrorists to ensure a safe release of those that are being held.”
He explained that the government is committed to ensuring that those affected by the attack and still in captivity will be released alive even though the negotiations might be difficult.
“The position of the government has been stated and restated over time that the success of any operation would be determined by the number of recovery of human beings alive and well; not at the return of dead bodies,” he maintained.
Mr Shehu said the government wants normalcy to return to the Kaduna-Abuja route, noting that there is an improvement in the security of the area.
“Yes, there is an improvement in security. The air surveillance has been announced by the former Minister of Transportation (Rotimi Amaechi) and the President, as far as we know, has okayed the electronic monitoring and surveillance platform that would ensure that there is the tracking, far and near, of all that is going on along the rail track; not only between Kaduna and Abuja but even Ibadan and Lagos,” the media aide stated.
“So, I believe that people are doing what it would take to put those appliances in place so that total safety would be ensured.”
To buttress his point about the safety of the rail track, he said he would have been on board had the services resumed as planned.
“If the trains had resumed, I would have been on the train because I believe that I have received enough assurances from the Ministry of Transportation and security services that they are safe,” the presidential aide said.
Eighty-three million Nigerians are set to be covered as President Muhammadu Buhari signed the National Health Insurance Authority Bill 2022 into law.
This is according to a statement released by presidential aide Garba Shehu on Thursday.
He said the bill repeals “the National Health Insurance Scheme Act, Cap N42, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004”.
Garba Shehu quoted his principal as saying during the signing of the law that a Fund will be set up “to ensure coverage of 83 million poor Nigerians who cannot afford to pay premiums as recommended by the Lancet Nigeria Commission”.
“For the large number of vulnerable individuals who are not able to pay health insurance premiums, a Vulnerable Group Fund will be set up to include a component of the Basic Health Care Provision Fund due to the Authority, Health Insurance Levy, Special Intervention Fund, and any investment proceeds, donations, and gifts to the Authority,” Buhari was quoted as explaining.
Buhari noted that the Authority will liaise with state government Health Insurance Schemes to accredit primary and secondary health facilities and enroll Nigerians into the scheme.
This is part of moves to ensure the delivery of quality health care. The new Act also enables the Authority and state governments to develop information management systems and digital records to enhance data collection, monitoring, and quality assurance.
The Nigerian leader, therefore, urged the Health Reform Committee to work with state governments, the Federal Ministry of Health, and the National Health Insurance Authority to ensure the implementation of the articles in the new Act, the statement added.
The Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed says President Muhammadu Buhari will decide the fate of ministers who declared interest in elective offices but later backed out.
He made the comment while addressing State House correspondents after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting held on Wednesday in Abuja. According to him, he will need to confirm the status of the returning ministers from the President.
“The other question about ministers returning or not going, I think you need to give me more time so that I can tell you exactly what the situation is,” he said during the briefing.
“Right now, I need to cross-check. I need to confirm again from Mr President what the situation is. You see the final decision on who is going, who’s coming back, who’s not going lies with Mr president.”
His comment followed Buhari’s directive to members of his cabinet seeking elective positions in next year’s poll to resign. About nine ministers were affected but some of them later rescinded their decision to vie for an elective post.
Before then, Buhari had a meeting with all outgoing ministers.
Aside from the fate of the ministers, Lai also refuted speculations that the Federal Government plans to ban Facebook due to the activities of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
He said the social media giant has assured that it will take action against posts that incite violence on its platform, months after the government reversed the ban on Twitter.
Speculations about the ban on Facebook gained momentum in recent times following renewed attacks in the South East by suspected IPOB members.
While many have been killed, security formations have also been attacked and properties destroyed in the region although the group has denied responsibility for the assaults.
Most recently, an army couple was killed on April 30 in Imo State, a development that prompted the military authorities to say IPOB was not promoting the interest of the Igbos.
President Muhammadu Buhari has said that Nigeria will sustain investments in aviation security and safety.
The President said that more investments will be deployed to the provision of infrastructure and facilities for safe, secure, environmentally friendly, and sustainable civil aviation.
He stated this on Tuesday when he received the Secretary-General of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Mr. Juan Carlos Salazar, at the State House.
According to the President, Nigeria will support the ideals and aspirations of ICAO and the achievement of its strategic objectives, in collaboration with the other Member States of the Organization.
“Nigeria became a member of the ICAO Council in 1962, and since then, it has continued to make valuable contributions to the Council’s work and its activities.
“It is pertinent to also mention that Nigeria has been playing a key role in supporting the implementation of ICAO Policies and Programmes internationally, and particularly in the African region.
“To this end, Nigeria has ratified international air law instruments like the Montreal Protocol and amendments to some articles of the Chicago Convention. Nigeria is also championing the cause of Aviation safety, security, and facilitation in Africa,’’ he said.
The President told the ICAO delegation that he has approved the establishment of Aerospace University in Abuja to cater to research and development as well as provide manpower for the industry.
“In this regard, Nigeria is looking forward to the continued support of ICAO under its ‘No Country Left Behind’ initiative,’’ he added.
President Buhari also noted that the Nigerian Government has established independent agencies in order to enhance aviation safety and security while ensuring effective and efficient provision and management of infrastructure in all aspects of the industry.
“These include the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority for safety and economic oversight of the industry; the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency for air traffic services; the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria for management of Government-owned airports; the Nigerian Meteorological Agency for meteorological services; and the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, the nation’s main aviation training organization, established in 1964 in collaboration with ICAO and the United Nations Development Programme.
“Nigeria is fully committed to working with other States and support the implementation of the Global Aviation Safety Plan, the Global Air Navigation Plan, as well as the Global Aviation Security Plan,’’ the President said.
As part of its support, President Buhari said Nigeria, over time, seconded auditors to support various ICAO programmes in the areas of safety and security.
“We have also contributed experts on various ICAO technical panels, commissions, and working groups.
“The Government of Nigeria has adopted a civil aviation policy, which is centered on liberalization and Public-Private-Partnerships Initiative. These have resulted in huge investments in the nation’s airport infrastructure and services, increased capacity utilization, and a phenomenal increase in the number of domestic operators. Indeed, the domestic and international traffic has experienced tremendous growth since our assumption of office in 2015.
“Nigeria is the headquarters of the Regional Safety Oversight Organisation, the Banjul Accord Group Aviation Safety Oversight Organization and also, a major contributor and participant in the Regional Accident Investigation Agency, the Banjul Accord Group Accident Investigation Agency,’’ he added.
Recently, according to the President, Nigeria made a robust donation to the ICAO voluntary Air Transport Fund in order to be part of the Global efforts for recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.
“We have also made a significant financial contribution to the Safety and Human Resource Development Funds, in addition to hosting several ICAO meetings and regional workshops, including the widely acclaimed successful third ICAO World Aviation Forum, as well as several other workshops on safety oversight,’’ he said.
Also speaking at the event, Minister of Aviation, Hadi Abubakar Sirika, commended President Buhari for the giant strides taken under his administration in the areas of aviation safety, security, and development.
“Our profile improved significantly during your tenure, Mr. President. Passengers rose from 8 million to 18 million in four years, while security and safety also went up significantly,” he said.
The ICAO Secretary General lauded what he calls “the leadership role Nigeria plays in civil aviation in Africa,” saying the country’s record is one of the most impressive in the world.
“The number of airports have doubled, and passengers are growing in spite of COVID-19. The record of safety is the most important performance indicator of all. I recognize the excellent work by your government to maintain high standards, in line with international best practices,” Salazar said.
Stressing that it’s important to maintain the track record, the ICAO scribe stressed that there was no end line in civil aviation, “we keep chasing targets that go on and on.”
He urged President Buhari to sustain the support being given to the sector, to attract further investment, tourism, and continued growth.
The Federal Government is working on a funding structure for public universities in the country as part of moves to tackle the incessant strikes by lecturers in these institutions.
This is according to the former Minister of State for Education Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba who noted that the government’s funding of public universities is unsustainable.
“I have proposed, and the Minister of Education (Adamu Adamu) will continue discussing this with Mr President, a new scheme in which universities have a different way of earning money to be able to care for themselves,” he said on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics.
The presidential aspirant of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2023 election maintained that with the number of public universities in the country, these schools have to get new ways of making money to fund their institutions.
“Because you see, there are only 50 of these federal universities and there are 200 others. However, these 50 alone are more than 75 percent of the number of students in the entire university structure – about 2.2m of them,” he argued.
“So, it is important we give them a funding structure; we need to bring a funding structure to the table because this coming hand-in-cap to the Federal Government at all times cannot be continued and is not sustainable.”
Nwajiuba, who last week resigned his position in the cabinet to concentrate on his presidential dream, said “this (a new funding structure) is something I would implement if you give me your mandate to be president.
“I know that even if it is not implemented now, the universities autonomy law needs to be reactivated.”
The former minister’s comment adds to the debates about funding for public universities in the country. Lecturers in these institutions have been on strike since February 14, pushing their demands, which include better funding for universities.
But the APC chieftain believes ASUU should reconsider strike as a means to press home their demands.
“In the last 20 years, we have had nearly 16 strikes. So, my position has not been that ‘Please, ASUU is talking rubbish’,” Nwajiuba said. “No, this is not true. ASUU is making a case for the entire university system.
He, however, said, “the only point of departure is that we have asked ASUU that strikes cannot cure the problem.”
“We need our children back in school. It hurts parents; it hurts us,” the presidential aspirant noted. “My own children are here. I don’t have children in private universities.”
President Muhammadu Buhari has met with ministers who are seeking elective offices in 2023 and thanked them for their services to the nation.
In a valedictory session at the Council Chamber in Abuja on Friday, Buhari appreciated them for their cooperation. He also admonished other members of the cabinet to be more diligent and committed to the success of the administration.
On whether former President Goodluck Jonathan has joined the All Progressives Congress (APC), he stated that the party is in the best position to know.
During a briefing after the session with the outgoing ministers, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, disclosed that ten of them were leaving.
According to him, some of the ministers have tendered their resignation while the others are in the process of doing so.
Those who were at the meeting include the Minister of State for Mines and Steel Uche Ogar; Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva; Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige; Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; Minister of Women Affairs Pauline Tallen.
Others are the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Goodwill Akpabio; Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami and the Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation, Ogbonnaya Onu.
Nine were physically present while the former Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, who is the tenth, was absent.
The meeting follows the President’s recent directive to all ministers and political appointees contesting for various elective positions to resign from their appointments on or before Monday, May 16, 2022.
“Last week, I saw something on Facebook that Alhaji Shehu Shagari was appealing to ASUU to go back to class. Alhaji Shagari ruled 43 years ago. And he was appealing to ASUU to go back to school,” the presidential aide said.
“That shows you that this is an endemic issue. Left to the government, the students will go back tomorrow but then the issue has to be resolved conclusively so that in another six weeks, eight weeks, or six months, we don’t go back to where we are today.
“It would not vitiate the legacy of the president in any way because this dates back in time. It was there under Shagari; it was there under Buhari as a military leader; it was there under Babangida, and it was there under Shonekan — under everybody.”
Earlier in the day, Buhari had appealed to the striking lecturers to consider the students’ plight and call off the strike.
“I want to use this opportunity to call on ASUU to consider the plight of the students and call off the ongoing strike action,” Buhari said at the 19th National Productivity Day and conferment of the National Productivity Order of Merit award held at the State House in Abuja.
“I also call on students to exercise patience as we try to address the nagging issues in our university system within the ambits of available resources.”
President Muhammadu Buhari has appealed to the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to consider the plight of students and call off its ongoing strike.
He made the appeal at the 19th National productivity day and conferment of the National Productivity Order of Merit award held on Thursday.
The President equally urged students in public tertiary institutions to exercise patience as the Federal Government is striving to address the nagging issues in the nation’s university system within the ambit of available resources.
Buhari’s appeal came two days after the union extended its industrial action, accusing the government of unwillingness to address its demands.
During Thursday’s event at the State House, President Buhari conferred the 2019/2020 awards on 37 individuals and 11 organizations.
So far, three-hundred and eighty-two individuals and 97 organizations have been awarded since the ceremony began in February 1991.
Among the awardees is the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Abdullahi Adamu, who was honoured for his role in advancing agriculture in the country; the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, for his role in the war against COVID; Doctor Chikwe Iheakweazu, former Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
Others are the founder and CEO of Secure ID, Mrs Kofo Akinkugbe; the Chairman and CEO of Air Peace, Allen ONYEAMA; post humor award was also given to Dr Ameyo Stella Adadevoh who died in the line of duty curbing the widespread of the Ebola virus among others.
The Presidency on Thursday has said government appointees who do not resign to pursue their political ambition “would have someone decide for them”.
Presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said this hours after President Muhammadu Buhari directed members of his cabinet and other government appointees nursing political ambitions ahead of the next election to resign.
“We are dealing with a government policy, a government directive, a circular of the government issued by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation duly approved by the President [which] clearly states who is to go,” he said in an interview on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily.
“So, I think that in a few occupied offices like that, you make the decision by yourself otherwise, someone would decide for you. So, that’s the point.”
According to him, the instruction to resign is clear, stressing that they were appointed.
Nine ministers, who are contesting for various positions at national and state levels, are affected by the new directive. Already, some of them have resigned to pursue their political ambitions.
The spokesman’s comment came on the heels of criticisms over the cost of nomination and expression of interest forms for the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential ticket.
While he believes aspirants can source money by various means such as donations from their supporters, the presidential aide said it is not the place of the presidency to investigate the sources of funding.
“Now the question is, how do they get 100 million and where did it come from? I think this is a question that should go to each individual aspirant on how they save all this money or how they collect it,” he said.
“For your interest, you know that I have seen someone who was yesterday saying he had quit the race after online contributors gave him up to N83 million. So, it would seem to me that it is not such a difficult task to ask people to donate and then the money comes in as soon as they open their wallets, so that could be their explanation.
“In a few cases, we have seen people come forward to say this is the group that has bought the form, if you like, go and challenge them but that’s their own claim.”
The presidency has said that President Muhammadu Buhari will not investigate how individuals within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) got a hundred mission naira (N100m) to purchase their presidential forms.
In an interview on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Thursday, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, noted that it is not necessary for the president to carry out a probe. He said that there are anti-graft agencies and even journalists whose responsibility it is to carry out such probes.
“This sort of scrutiny is largely up to the civil society, and you the media. Ask questions, go to them,” the president’s aide urged.
“To ask the president to launch an investigation, where does that take us? I don’t think that is the right way to go.”
Addressing the president’s latest directive regarding appointees seeking political office, Mr Shehu said contrary to what some might have thought, the directive that ministers, heads of agencies, and other appointees seeking elective offices should resign their appointments, is not in line with the section 84 of the Electoral Act.
“He made no reference to section 84, he simply gave the directive and I think it’s clear that as the head of the executive arm of government, he owns the executive authority and power to decide,” Garba Shehu noted.
According to him, ministers seeking to have a consultation with president Buhari before resigning will be able to do so on Friday, however, the directive still stands.
As regards the presidential ambition of the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, Mr Shehu said the directive is clear and that it is left to Emefiele and his legal counsel to determine what is applicable within the tenets of the constitution.
“Does he consider himself the head of an agency or parastatal or consider himself a member of the ministerial department? I expect that he and his lawyers will determine what is applicable for them,” the president’s special media aide reckoned.