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Where is our President as Shettima cancels trip over aircraft issues?

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Concerns over Tinubu’s whereabouts as Shettima cancels U.S. trip

• Tuggar to represent Nigeria
• Nigeria may be on autopilot with Tinubu, Shettima absence – Atiku
• Tinubu can govern from anywhere in the world, Bwala tackles Atiku
• Presidency slams Atiku, says no law bars Tinubu’s son from pursuing business interests

In a twist of events further raising worries over the President’s whereabouts, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yusuf Maitama Tuggar, will now represent President Bola Tinubu at the 2024 U.S.-Africa Business Summit in Dallas, Texas.

Curiously, a late presidency’s statement said Vice President Kashim Shettima, who was originally scheduled to represent the President was unable to make the trip following an aircraft snag, forcing him to make a detour on the advice of the Presidential Air Fleet.

According to a statement by his media aide, Stanley Nkwocha, on Monday, the Vice President would carry on with other national duties at home.

Recall that Shettima had left Abuja earlier on Sunday for the United States for the summit.

The high-profile summit, taking place at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Centre, will bring together political and business leaders from across Africa, the United States, and other regions. It will feature high-level dialogues, networking and plenary sessions.

Among the African heads of state expected are President Joseph Boakai of Liberia; President Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi; President Joao Lourenço of Angola; President Mokgweetsi E.K. Masisi of Botswana; President José Maria Neves of Cabo Verde, and Deputy Prime Minister Nthomeng Majara of Lesotho.

Earlier, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar had described as unusual the absence of President Tinubu and his deputy, Shettima, from the country at the same time, especially now that the nation is faced with daunting challenges.

Atiku said he has been inundated by reports of the absence of the President and Vice President from the country. In a post on his X handle on Monday, Atiku said one might be right to assume that the country is on autopilot.

He said: “It is unprecedented that the two leaders will be absent from the country at the same time, especially now that the nation is faced with daunting challenges. The question that readily comes to mind is who is in charge of government at this point, or is it right to assume that we are on autopilot?”

Shettima’s cancelled trip to the United States had created a sort of leadership vacuum at the nation’s seat of power with Tinubu yet to return to Nigeria a week after attending the Special World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Saudi Arabia.

But Atiku’s former spokesman, Daniel Bwala, insists that President Tinubu could govern the country from anywhere in the world. Bwala said this is the case whether Shettima is also in Nigeria or not.

Disagreeing with his former boss, Bwala said: “The President is in charge of the country and can govern from anywhere in the world whether the Vice President is also in Nigeria or not. Aso Villa is not a block industry and the President is not a bricklayer. Read Section 5 of the Constitution.”

As the presidency’s silence on Tinubu’s whereabouts continues, a source yesterday said the President is set to return to Nigeria after a brief respite in London and Paris, “following a series of intensive cross-country meetings between the Netherlands and Saudi Arabia.”

According to the source, despite his absence, the President has reportedly been in constant communication with Vice-President Shettima, adding that President Tinubu had remained engaged with all his senior aides, diligently preparing for the upcoming first anniversary ceremonies later this month.

“Despite the demanding nature of his recent engagements abroad, the President’s commitment to the affairs of the nation remains unwavering.”

According to insiders, President Tinubu’s return would be the start of another highpoint to fulfilling his duties and responsibilities to the Nigerian people.

The President has not been seen since he departed for an official trip to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, last week to attend a special session of the World Economic Forum. The forum concluded on April 29, but the President’s whereabouts remain a mystery, leaving Nigerians concerned about his whereabouts in the face of severe fuel shortages, depreciating currency and skyrocketing inflation.

It was gathered that the President left Riyadh on April 30, one day after the summit ended, and arrived in London on the same day. He departed London Stansted for Paris Le Bourget on May 2, where he has remained ever since without the knowledge of most of his key aides.

The president had travelled on the Gulfstream G550 typically assigned to Vice-President Kashim Shettima, but after the main presidential jet broke down, Tinubu picked up his deputy’s plane to do his own foreign trips.

But as tongues continue to wag on Tinubu’s whereabouts and Presidency officials continuing to remain mute, arrangements have been concluded by Presidency staffers to receive the President on his return to the seat of Power in the Presidential Villa, Abuja, though there has been yet no confirmation on the date by the Presidency.

MEANWHILE, the Presidency on Monday declared that there is no legislation which bars President Tinubu’s son, Seyi Tinubu, from transacting legitimate business in Nigeria. It said Atiku’s “wild claims” because the President’s son, Seyi, sits on the board of CDK, a tiles manufacturing company, based in Sagamu, Ogun State smacks of a penchant to distort facts.

“How can an elder-statesman be waging a campaign of calumny against the economic fortunes and prosperity of a country he wishes to govern or trying to scuttle a project that will bring prosperity to nine coastal states and the nation in general,” it asked rhetorically.

Speaking through Bayo Onanuga, a Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, the Presidency noted “it is important to state clearly that Seyi Tinubu is a 38 year-old adult who has a right to do business and pursue his business interests in Nigeria and anywhere in the world within the limits of the law. The fact that his father is now the President of Nigeria does not disqualify Seyi from pursuing legitimate business interests.”

Specifically, the former Vice President Atiku had on Sunday leveled serious accusations against President Tinubu, alleging a conflict of interest in the controversial Lagos-Calabar highway project.

In a statement released by his media adviser, Paul Ibe, Atiku highlighted the involvement of Tinubu’s son, Seyi, in companies owned by businessman Gilbert Chagoury, raising concerns about the impartiality of the project’s procurement process.

Reacting to the allegations in the statement on Monday, however, Mr Onanuga came hard on the former Vice President, saying Atiku’s emotional and frequently violent harangues are aimed at deliberate distortion of facts for self serving objectives.

The statement reads: “The President Tinubu-led administration believes that every true and patriotic Nigerian, regardless of political differences, should work to promote the unity and economic well-being of the country and not delegitimise genuine efforts of the Federal Government to encourage local and foreign investments into the economy.

“Contrary to Atiku’s claim, the Tinubu administration, within its first year, has attracted over $20 billion into the economy. While President Tinubu was in New Delhi, India for G20 Summit last year September, Indian business leaders committed over $14 billion in new investments. A substantial part of this sum is already in the country.

“In an unmistakable vote of confidence in the economic reforms being executed by the Tinubu administration, foreign investment in Nigeria’s stock market has ballooned, from N18.12 billion in Q1 2023  to N93.37 billion in Q1 2024, an increase of 415 per cent. The last time Nigeria saw such level of investment was in the first quarter of 2019, when N97.6 billion was invested. The market, since Tinubu came to power, has broken records and created more wealth for the investors.

“During President Tinubu’s recent trip to The Netherlands, the Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, announced a fresh $ 250 million investment by Dutch businesses in Nigeria.

“Different sectors of the economy, especially telecoms, manufacturing, solid minerals, oil and gas, e-commerce, and fintech, are attracting new Foreign Direct Investments from discerning investors who know Nigeria is a good market for bountiful returns.

“We found it strange that Atiku could accuse President Tinubu of conflict of interest in the award of Lagos-Calabar Coastal highway to Hitech Construction Company which he claimed is owned by Chagoury family because the President’s son, Seyi Tinubu, sits on the board of CDK, a tiles manufacturing company, based in Sagamu, Ogun State,” he stated.

● Report by The Guardian.

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