Billed to attend mining event to show Abuja is safe, Buhari jets out to UK

President Muhammadu Buhari left Nigeria on Monday for medical reasons a day ahead of his scheduled appearance at a mining event slated for Abuja to drum up investor interest in Nigeria’s chaotic solid minerals sector.

The president traveled to Britain for a “routine medical checkup” and will spend about two weeks, his press office said Monday, just days after returning from South Korea.

“President Buhari is leaving for London on October 31, 2022 for a routine medical check-up. He is returning to the country in the second week of November, 2022,” presidential spokeswoman Femi Adesina tweeted on Monday afternoon.

The trip, and his sudden announcement, raised concerns about the president’s health and why the government reversed Mr. Buhari’s plan to attend and declare the opening of the sixth edition of the Nigeria Mining Week on Tuesday. The program will bring together investors, academics and industry professionals at the International Convention Centre, Abuja.

Mining week

Mining Week aims to showcase Nigeria’s potential in the mining sector and boost investor confidence in the underperforming solid minerals industry as part of efforts to diversify the country’s economy and revenue base.

Nigeria is expected to play a key role in the coming years as a producer of rare earth metals needed in electric vehicles and batteries as the world moves towards cleaner energy. Last week, the Minister of Mines, Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite, was enthusiastic in his statement that Mr. Buhari would miss the scheduled event.

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“Government, in particular, has put all its will and political weight behind the sustainable development of the mining sector and I am very excited to announce that as we strive to discuss common challenges and share our success stories, His Excellency Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria will announce for opening the event,” he said.

Also read: Buhari leaves for London for “medical examination”

The minister called on foreign investors to attend the event because the planned presence of Mr. Buhari would indicate the security situation in the state capital, Abuja.

“The Federal Government has not rested on its oars to ensure the safety of lives and property in the country, adding that Nigerian security agencies have been briefed to address the security situation,” he was quoted as saying by Punch. “The fact that Abuja is safe is reflected in the fact that His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria will declare the event open.”

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The security of fear

Last week, several foreign missions issued travel advisories warning of imminent terrorist attacks in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

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PREMIUM TIMES reported on the advisories issued first by the US and UK governments, and then by other foreign missions. They warned their citizens to avoid traveling to Nigeria, especially Abuja, and warned of a potential attack in the city. The US has since suspended consular operations. Abuja Nad has advised her staff and their families to relocate from the Nigerian capital.

President Buhari However, in his response, he said the advisory does not mean “an attack in Abuja is imminent”.

Analysts said Mr. Buhari’s planned appearance at a Mining Week event on Tuesday would have boosted interest in the mining industry and paid off reports that the nation’s capital was unsafe.

A Twitter user, Adeolu Ahmed, wondered why the President chose to ignore Mining Week despite the significance of his presence at the event.

According to the Minister of Mines, he was to mark the Nigerian Mining Week in person tomorrow. It would have served two purposes to investors… assured them that Abuja is safe and underscored our seriousness with mining as a diversification driver,” he tweeted. “Alas, he went for a routine inspection. If this is routine and not a health emergency, couldn’t he leave tomorrow after giving his keynote speech?”

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Mr. Buhari has a record of going on endless trips, drawing criticism from many Nigerians.

Monday’s trip will be one of several medical trips the president has taken since taking office in 2015, spending more than 200 days abroad.

Barely a year after his inauguration in February 2016, Mr. Buhari embarked on his first medical trip to the UK, spending six days. Later that year, he went to treat an ear infection, and spent several days.

In 2021, Mr. Buhari traveled to London for a “routine medical check-up”, which lasted 15 days.

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