- PDP demands explanation for presidentâ€™s â€˜technical stopoverâ€™
Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari last night returned to Abuja six days after he left the country for the United States, where he held bilateral talks with President Donald Trump.
The president, who left the country on Saturday night and arrived Washington D.C. on Sunday, touched down at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport at about 11 p.m. last night.
He had left Washington on Wednesday but did not fly directly to Nigeria. Instead, he had a stopover in London en route Nigeria, during which refuelling and the necessary checks were carried out on the small aircraft he had used for the trip.
Malam Garba Shehu, the presidentâ€™s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, who had earlier explained that the president had a â€œtechnical stopoverâ€™â€in London, said that his arrival in Nigeria was delayed because the president did not fly in the larger presidential presidential jet, Eagle One, because it had gone for repairs.
According to him, Buhari used a smaller aircraft which he said could only cover 12 hours and 40 minutes.
He pointed out that the stopover was necessary to ensure that the aircraft was not overstretched with a direct flight, even though the distance from Washington DC to Abuja is 12 hours.
Against this backdrop, Shehu said the journey had to be broken into two with a stopover in London to create room for the necessary checks on the plane before proceeding to Nigeria.
â€œThe big jet is under repairs. It has been taken for major repairs. So the president is using a small plane and there is a limit to the distance the small plane can cover.
â€œSo the technical stopover I talked about is that the journey from the U.S. to Abuja is broken into two. The technical stopover is that the plane stops at a point, refuels, undergoes some checks and then proceeds on the journey.
â€œThis is very normal. There is nothing unusual about it. In any case, they are already on their way back home.
â€œIt is a routine thing. The plane can do Abuja-Washington, thatâ€™s about 12 hours and the maximum the plane can fly is 12 hours, 40minutes. But you donâ€™t need to push it to the edge,â€ Shehu said.
However, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has asked the presidency to end their official secrecy and come out clear on the reasons for President Buhariâ€™s alleged â€˜technical stopoverâ€™ in London.
The party noted that President Buhari left the US 48 hours ago and embarked on an unofficial visit to United Kingdom for undisclosed reasons without transmitting a letter to the National Assembly.
In a statement issued yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the party said: â€œPresident Buhari had on Tuesday left the US where he had an embarrassing and fruitless outing and instead of returning to the country, detoured to the UK for another private visit without regard to full disclosure of the requirements of our constitution and laws.
â€œIndeed, Nigerians are worried about the signal being sent out by this penchant for secret itinerary, particularly, given the poor reputation and governance transparency issues confronting our country in the Buhari administration.
â€œThe presidency must understand that President Buhari is not a private citizen, and as long as his upkeep and itinerary is sourced from our hard-earned resources, there must be full disclosure, as citizens deserve to know the purpose of the visit and the cost to our nation.
â€œThis is especially as Buhariâ€™s foreign trips, which come at great costs, have not brought any gains to our country. Instead, the president has continued to de-market our country in the international arena. The just concluded Commonwealth Head of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London, where he cast aspersion at our enterprising youths and failed to return with any dividend, readily comes to mind.â€
Furthermore, PDP noted that â€œBuhariâ€™s admission at the Voice of America (VOA) that he was unable to reach any agreement with President Donald Trump on any matter of interest to Nigeria during his US visit and that he has no future development agenda to validate his 2019 re-election bid, confirm our position that the Buhari administration has nothing to offer Nigerians.â€
PDP said the President Buhariâ€™s handlers should adequately prepare him before international outings as well as ensure full disclosure on all his visits outside the country since he embodies the image and integrity of Nigeria until May 29, 2019.