By Ben Agande & Daniel Idonor:
RIYADH—NIGERIA’S Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Alhaji Abdullah Aminchi said, yesterday, that it was doctors attending to ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua who had denied Nigerians access to their President in his Jeddah hospital and not Saudi authorities. He said he visited the President last Saturday and that “he is really feeling better now.”
Meanwhile, the Saudi authorities have granted the ministerial team mandated to visit Yar’Adua in Saudi Arabia the landing permits to the presidential aircraft and other travelling details expected of them, even as the Federal Government gave reason why the six-man team constituted by the Federal Executive Council, FEC, could not travel as planned. The government said the normal issue of processes was responsible.
Alhaji Aminchi who spoke with a news agency, AFP, yesterday said: “I saw him the day before yesterday … He’s really feeling better now.”
He confirmed that a delegation of senior 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 for an acute heart condition.
Aminchi said it was Yar’Adua’s doctors and not Saudi authorities who had denied access to Yar’Adua as some Nigerian officials have charged, noting: “It is only the doctors assigned to him who are preventing the visitors from seeing the President,” despite a green light from the Saudi authorities.
Saudis grant landing permit
Meanwhile, Saudi authorities, yesterday, granted the ministerial team mandated to visit Yar’Adua in Saudi Arabia the landing permit to the presidential aircraft and other travelling details expected of them.
A source close to one of the ministers told Vanguard in Abuja that the inability of the ministerial team to leave the country, Sunday, for Saudi Arabia was largely due to logistics problems and not the refusal of the Saudi authorities to grant their aircraft landing permit as reported in some media.
The Federal Executive Council, last Wednesday, mandated six ministers to visit President Yar’Adua in Saudi Arabia and to convey the goodwill of the government and people of Nigeria to the Saudi king for taking care of the President.
The team which was expected to depart for Saudi Arabia last Sunday could, however, not leave because of logistics reasons.
The source told Vanguard in Abuja that contrary to media reports that the team was denied landing rights and visa, there was a mix-up in the application for the landing rights from the Nigerian authorities.
The source said: “For instance, it is common knowledge that Thursday and Friday are non-working days in Saudi Arabia. The resolution mandating the ministers to go to Saudi Arabia was done on Wednesday evening and by the time the letters were written, there was no way anybody would have responded from Saudi Arabia.
And by the time the responses came, Saturday, it was a non-working day in Nigeria so nothing could be done before yesterday. There was no deliberate attempt to stop the Nigerian ministerial delegation from going to Saudi Arabia as insinuated in the media.”
Giving reason why the ministerial team could not travel to Saudi Arabia as planned, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, said the team which was earlier scheduled to leave for Saudi on Sunday morning could not leave due to what he described as “normal issues of process”; adding that “in the next few hours we will leave.”
Speaking with State House correspondents, Maduekwe said: “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, 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, it is just like nobody comes to Nigeria without notifying us that the person is coming.
Protocol arrangement at the airport
“There is a 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 when we go we will be properly received at the airport.
When I asked the Saudi ambassador to see me, he duly said he will pass on our request to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
Maduekwe, who was in Aso Rock, apparently to brief Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, on the various contradicting reports in some dailies (not Vanguard) said: “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 get the people on the delegation to know. You don’tjust tell them five minutes to the time that you have.”He expressed optimism that the team will see the President when they arrive today stressing “there is no problem as the Saudi authorities have responded to our request very promptly, with a lot of speed, because they put a lot of premium on our request just as we do on the close ties between the two countries. So there is nothing to worry about. We will talk to you when we are back.”
The foreign minister added: “We 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.”
When asked on the mandate of the team, Maduekwe said: “We will be expressing our deep appreciation to the King of Saudi Arabia for the excellent and generous attention which the King 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 put on record to thank the King for that and that’s enough reason for a strong team from the government to go. We didn’t know that this thing would last two weeks, one month, or two months and it’s close to the third month.”
The minister, however, said that the trip could not have been at a better time than now, noting that “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 weeks he was there we didn’t go to Riyadh to thank the king”.
While debunking the claim that the team was on a medical probe, Maduekwe said: “we are not a medical team. We are not a medical panel, it is better to go physically to do the thanking.”
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