World leaders, in Abuja, celebrate with Nigeria at 100

Posted by Mohammed Abubakar and Collins Olayinka | 10 years ago | 3,651 times

AS Nigeria’s centenary anniversary celebrations peaked Thursday, world leaders took turns to felicitate with the country, urging her to take her prime place in the comity of nations.

  Meanwhile, free movement of Nigerians and foreign dignitaries in Abuja as the nation celebrated its centenary yesterday was hampered by fuel scarcity.

  Some of the leaders who sent congratulatory messages to Nigerian leader included the British Monarch, Queen Elizabeth II; President Francois Hollande of France, who personally attended the International Conference on Human Security, Peace and Development: Agenda for 21st Century Africa.”

  Other leaders who were present at the celebration included the Presidents of The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh; Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaore; Ali Bongo Odimba of Gabon; Idriss Deby of Chad; Yaya Boni of Benin Republic; Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim, former Secretary-General of Organisation of African Unity (OAU); Hailemariam Desalegn, Prime Minister of Ethiopia.

  Others included Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President of Liberia; Jose Manuel Baroso, President of the European Commission; Mrs. Joyce Banda of Malawi; Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz of Mauritania; Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali; Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia as well as Mohamadou Issoufou of Niger Republic.

  The leaders spoke extensively on the warmth relationship between Nigeria and their respective countries.

  In a written message delivered to President Jonathan yesterday by Britain’s Minister for Africa, Mr. Mark Simmonds, Queen Elizabeth II conveyed her best wishes for the happiness and prosperity of the people of Nigeria.

  “On the occasion of the Republic of Nigeria celebrating 100 years since the amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria, I send the people of Nigeria my warmest congratulations.

 “I have fond memories of my first visit to Nigeria in 1956 and again in 2003 as Head of the Commonwealth.

  “The links between our two countries have deepened over the past 100 years and I hope they will continue to do so.

  “I would like to convey my best wishes for the happiness and prosperity of the people of Nigeria,” she wrote.

  The Ethiopian premier, in his presentations, stressed the need for African leaders to address the root cause of some of the problems confronting the continent, more especially in addressing the needs of the youths.

  According to him, “ensuring security means we as leaders have to address the issues that cause the untold human suffering which our countries have been noted for, failure of which have been series of conflicts.

  “The only way Africa can break the cycle of violence is through the promotion of good governance evolving policies that would guarantee sustainable development of the continent.”

  The Liberian President, who spoke on her country’s experience, noted that the future of the continent would be guaranteed if strong continental leaders like Nigeria showed clear example.

  Johnson, who recalled the great role Nigeria played in restoring law and order to her country during its almost decade-long civil war, noted, however, that the country was yet to shed the toga of the conflict as has been seen from her unstable economy.

  Baroso, who commended Nigerian leadership both at regional and international affairs, called for co-operation from other African countries with Nigeria in order to ensure secured continent free of crisis.

  Simmonds, who read the speech of the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, said Nigeria, despite her initial challenges, had the prospect of leading other African countries, but noted that only Nigerians hold the key to its development.

  His words: “Nigeria has a great future of prosperity; the choice that Nigerians make in determining their future is entirely theirs, but the UK will continue to assist Nigeria in tackling extremism and terrorism.”

  He used the opportunity to challenge African leaders present at the occasion to work towards producing leaders who will leave strong legacy behind after they might have gone, citing the example of the late South African President, Nelson Mandela who the world celebrated because of his selflessness and spirit of reconciliation.

  Banda, in her intervention, called on Nigeria not to shirk in its responsibility of leading the continent to its destiny. She deplored the recent attack on a college in Yobe State, noting: “As a mother and grandmother, I see the killings in some parts of Nigeria as shocking and saddening. But I can assure you that Malawi will continue to lend its voice on matters that will help in restoring peace in Nigeria.

  Among former Nigerian leaders that graced the conference yesterday included Gen. Yakubu Gowon, former President Shehu Shagari, Chief Ernest Shonekan, former Vice President Alex Ekwueme and ex-Chief of General Staff (CGS), Lt.-Gen. Oladipo Diya. There was also former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, as well as former Minister of External Affairs, Ambassador Ibrahim Gambari.

  Though the situation abated later in the afternoon, fuel shortage in Abuja caused gridlock as queues blocked most of the access roads within the city.

  Commercial taxi operators also took the advantage of the situation by increasing fares which resulted in some dignitaries’ late arrival at the International Conference Centre, venue of the event.

  The Guardian gathered that the inability of the country to meet its domestic fuel consumption has been linked to non-granting of autonomy to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

  It was gathered that government’s bureaucratic bottlenecks that have been embedded in the operations of the national oil company often resulted in operational delays, especially in the process of award of contracts for the maintenance of critical infrastructure such as refineries, pipelines, strategic reserves, among others.

  Some of the reasons deduced for the consistently non-performing of refineries is the lack of power to award contracts for the refurbishment of the refineries and many layer of approving authorities that the NNPC has to go through before core maintenance work can be executed.

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