The heightening of security in Abuja on Thursday notwithstanding, the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, shelved many of the activities scheduled for her and left Nigeria for Ghana.
She later held a meeting with the Ghanaian President, Mr. John Mahama, at his residence in Accra. She is billed to participate in the state funeral for the late President John Attah Mill.
Clinton, on the last lap of her nine-nation African tour, departed the country shortly after a closed-door meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan and the National Security Council, but she shelved scheduled meeting, with civil society groups and anti-corruption campaigners billed for the US Ambassador’s residence in Abuja.
The US Secretary of State also shelved the traditional ‘Meet and Greet’ with US Embassy staff.
At the closed-door session with members of the National Security Council were the Minister of State, Defence, Chief Olusola Obada; National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.); Chief of Defence Staff, Air-Mashal Oluseyi Petinrin; Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika; and the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Muhammed Abubakar.
The Federal Government had deployed security agents in many parts of the Federal Capital City, including the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport and Umaru Yar’Adua Way, which were manned by soldiers and policemen as part of the security measures for Clinton’s visit.
Security agents were also at the Federal Secretariat and the Central Business District.
Also, roads leading to the Presidential Villa and the Federal Secretariat and the Central Business District were manned by armed security agents.
Foreign media reports on Thursday however indicated that Clinton would not pass the night in Nigeria because of security fears.
“The security situation in Nigeria has deteriorated to the point where the movement of US Embassy workers is often restricted. Clinton will spend only five hours on the ground and will not spend the night in Abuja, where the hotel traditionally used by visiting dignitaries has been the target of terrorist threats,” the Associated Press reported on Thursday.
Before she left the country, however, the US Secretary of State had encouraged Jonathan to take tough decisions necessary to change the fortunes of the country and that the US would support him.
She told the President, “We were also very supportive of anti-corruption reform efforts, more transparency in the work that you and your team are also championing because we really believe that the future for Nigeria is limitless but the most important task that you face, as you have said, is making sure that there are better opportunities for all Nigerians, South, East, West, every young boy and girl to have chance to fulfil his God-given potential.
“We want to work with you and we will be by your side as you make the reforms and take the tough decisions that are necessary.”
Jonathan had earlier paid tribute to the US President Barak Obama and Clinton for their support for Nigeria. He recalled that she had used her position as US Secretary of State to deepen the relationship between the two countries.
He said, “Within this period of being Secretary of State, she has raised the relationship between Nigeria and America to a very high level that we have never reached for quite some time by personally chairing the Bi-national and we have discussed various things – security, economy and so on and so forth. She has been very very supportive.
“And of course, the President of America, President Obama administration is also quite passionate about Africa and Nigeria. He has always been very supportive of us for the past five years. From the days I came in as Vice-President, especially that period as a nation when we faced a lot of challenges when the late President was very ill and we passed through turbulence period.
“The support they gave us was one of the support that stabilised this country. And when we insisted we must conduct election that is free and fair and that is the only way we can stabilise democracy, they were very supportive.
“They gave us moral support, technical support to INEC and assisted us to make sure that we conducted elections that national and international observers declared as free and fair.
“So let me on behalf of government and good people of Nigeria really thank you and President Obama and the good people of America for this your support for Nigeria and Africa and all what you are doing to make sure that this part of the globe develop.”
Clinton who was decked in a pair of black trousers and red jacket arrived at the Presidential Villa at 3.50pm in company with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru; Nigerian Ambassador to US, Ambassador Ade Adefuye, and a battery of security details and foreign journalists.
She left the Presidential Villa at 6.15 pm and headed for the airport and on her way to Accra, Ghana.
President Barack Obama had been under pressure by some American legislators to classify the Islamic violent sect, Boko Haram, as a terrorist group, a campaign that had been resisted by diplomats arguing that the sect mainly focused on domestic violence.
In June this year, however, the US government labelled suspected Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, and two other Nigerian militants “global terrorists,” thus allowing the seizure of their assets in the United States.
The labelling was dismissed by Shekau who appeared in a posting on YouTube last weekend.
Boko Haram is believed to maintain links with Al-Queda in the Islamic Maghreb, Al-Qaeda’s North African branch, among other terrorist groups.