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Monday, August 8, 2022

Nigerian Ambassador: Doctors barring people from seeing Yar’Adua

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Nigeria’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Mr. Abdullah Garba Aminchi, has said the only obstacle to meeting ailing President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua is

a directive issued by his doctors at the Jeddah hospital barring any visitor from having access to him.

This may effectively dash the hopes of a six-member ministerial team which was raised by the Executive Council of the Federation (EXCOF) to visit the President in the hospital.

The team finally left last night after failing to take off on Sunday night owing to what Foreign Affairs Minister Ojo Maduekwe attributed to “protocol”.

But Aminchi said he himself had visited Yar’Adua on Saturday and that the condition of the president, who has not been seen in public for three months, was improving after treatment for a heart ailment.

“I saw him the day before yesterday … He’s really feeling better now,” Aminchi told AFP.

Aminchi confirmed that a delegation of legislators were not allowed to see Yar’Adua earlier this month despite coming to Jeddah on a mission to gauge the health of the 58-year-old president, who checked into King Faisal Specialist Hospital on November 23, 2009 for an acute heart condition.

He said it was Yar’Adua’s doctors and not Saudi authorities, as some Nigerian officials have charged, who had denied access to the ailing president.

“It is only the doctors assigned to him who are preventing them (visitors) from seeing the president despite a green light from the Saudi authorities,” Aminchi told AFP.

Aminchi has regularly given assurances that Yar’Adua’s condition is improving, saying in mid-January that he was awaiting doctors’ permission to return home.

In Abuja yesterday, Maduekwe explained that the six-member ministerial team could not embark on the journey because the final diplomatic protocol for the trip was concluded late Sunday night.

Maduekwe, who spoke to State House correspondents at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, said the team would make the trip last night. The minister, however, could not say exactly when the delegation would be back to the country.

Members of the team who will be travelling with a presidential aircraft are Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed; Minister of Health Professor Babatunde Osotimehin; Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dr. Rilwanu Lukman; Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Adekotunbo Kayode (SAN); Agriculture Minister, Dr. Abba Ruma; and Maduekwe himself.

The decision to embark on the trip was agreed upon by way of a resolution of EXCOF at its Wednesday, February 10, 2010 meeting.

Even though Information and Communications Minister, Professor Dora Akunyili, who made public the resolution of council failed to disclose details of the visit, it was gathered that the trip was a medical fact-finding one to ascertain the health status of the President.

The conversation between Maduekwe and journalists went thus:

When are you leaving?

We are leaving in the next few hours.

What caused the delay?

Normal issues of process. You don’t fly into other people’s country without getting all the facility clearance. There are things to be sorted out. Remember the request was made close to weekend, ok and the offices opened on Sunday, your request to come into a country is received, is processed and we have a very good relations with the Kingdom and there is no problem and our desire to be there is accepted. So there is a process, just like nobody comes to Nigeria without notifying us that the person is coming. Protocol arrangement at the airport to receive them, we are not going as private citizens, we are going there as government officials and on the basis of reciprocity, like if the Saudis come to Nigeria they will be properly received at the airport. So as when we go we will be properly received at the airport. Like I told you this request was made close to the weekend when I asked the Saudi ambassador to see me he duly said he will pass on our request to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

When are you leaving?

It was only by yesterday that the details of our going were concluded. By the time we had them it was almost midnight. So we couldn’t continue because we have to let the people on the delegation know. You don’t just tell them five minutes to the time that you have got to leave, oh everything is ok, go to the airport, you don’t do that. So there is no problem and the Saudi has responded to our request very promptly, with a lot of speed, because they do put a lot of premium as we do on the close ties between the two countries. So there is nothing to worry about.

Will you be meeting with the president?

We will talk to you when we are back.

What is your mandate?

We will be expressing our deep appreciation to the King of Saudi Arabia for the excellent and generous attention both personally and the government and people of Saudi have given to our president, who unfortunately has been away for almost three months now for medical treatment. We need to be on record to thank the king for that and that’s enough reason for us to go and it’s enough reason for a strong team from the government to go. We didn’t know that this thing would last two weeks, will last one month, will last two months and it’s close to the third month. It’s just time. We couldn’t have done it much earlier because we would have thought it was just for a few weeks but it’s entering the third month. So we felt there is need to be on record. We don’t want it to be on record that when our president comes back even if he comes back today, that for the three months he was there we didn’t go to Riyadh to thank the king. It is better to go physically to do the thanking. We can write letter to thank him but this is the king of Saudi Arabia and nothing less than what we are doing is less than adequate, that’s all. That is the major emphasis on what we are doing.

Is the trip for getting a medical report on the president’s health condition?

We are not a medical team. We are not a medical panel.

But you have a medical doctor in your team?

The constitution does not make that doctor a member of a medical panel. The fact that he is the minister of health does not make him a member of a medical panel. An engineer can be minister of health; even a lawyer like me can be minister of health. The only position in the executive council, which by constitutional provision requires a particular profession to head that ministry is that of the office of attorney general, it must be a lawyer. The fact that the minister of health is on this team does not automatically mean that he is going there as a medical doctor. It could have been minister of culture, it could have been minister of transport, and it could have been anybody else, so it should not establish any linkage between the presence of Prof. Osotimehin, renowned medical scholar and minister of health, there is no linkage between that at all and the purpose of this visit. The purpose of this visit is exactly what I have told you to express appreciation to the King of Saudi Arabia and also express our solidarity with the first family and register our prayers and the best wishes for the rapid recovery of the president and of course give assurances that under the dynamic leadership of the acting President Goodluck Jonathan, governance is going on. The executive council remains focused, united and that every issue whether it is infrastructure, health care or education or even diplomacy have been proceeding normally. You can see the floury of foreign visitors to Nigeria and we need again to have this conversation in Saudi both with the government of Saudi and also members of the first family. You know I went to four countries in West Africa before the last ECOWAS meeting where I met with four presidents apart from their foreign ministers and those assurances were very useful. I would soon be visiting some other countries in Africa not because of the president’s health but that Nigeria international roles continue to remain robust, vigorous and high profile from what you could see from what happened over the weekend.

When are you returning?

We’ll leave tonight and we are not going to be there all week. It is not going to last long and as soon as we carry out the purpose of our going there, we start coming back.

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