Maduekwe Explains Delay, As Delegation Departs For Saudi Arabia

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Abuja Feb 22, (THEWILL) – Foreign Affairs Minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe has explained why the federal government delegation to Saudi Arabia did not leave on Sunday as planned. The full text of the question and answer conversion is reproduced below:

Correspondent: When are u leaving?
Minister: We are leaving in the next few hours.
Correspondent: What caused the delay?
Minister: Normal issues of process. 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's just like nobody comes to Nigeria without notifying us that the person is coming.

Protocol arrangement at the airport to receive us have to be made, 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 as when we go we will be properly received at the airport. Like I told you this request was made close to the weekend when I asked the Saudi ambassador to see me he duly said he will pass on our request to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Correspondent: When are you leaving?
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 let the people on the delegation know. You don't just tell them five minutes to the time that you have got to leave, everything is ok, go to the airport, you don't do that. So there is no problem and the Saudi's have responded to our request very promptly, with a lot of speed, because they do put a lot of premium as we do on the close ties between the two countries. So there is nothing to worry about.

Correspondent: Will you be meeting with the president?

Minister: We will talk to you when we are back.
Correspondent: What is your mandate?
We will be expressing our deep appreciation to the King of Saudi Arabia for the excellent and generous attention both personally, 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 be on record to thank the king for that and that's enough reason for us to go and its enough reason for a strong team from the government to go. We didn't know that this thing would last two weeks, will last one month, will last two months and it's close to the third month.

It's just time. 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 months he was there we didn't go to Riyadh to thank the king. It is better to go physically to do the thanking. We can write letter to thank him but this is the king of Saudi Arabia and nothing less than what we are doing is less than adequate, that's all. That is the major emphasis on what we are doing.

Correspondent: Is it a process towards getting a medical report on the president's health condition?

Minister: We are not a medical team. We are not a medical panel.

Correspondent: But you have a medical doctor in your team?

Minister: The constitution does not make that doctor a member of a medical panel. The fact that he is the minister of health does not make him a member of a medical panel. An engineer can be minister of health; even a lawyer like me can be minister of health. The only position in the executive council, which by constitutional provision requires a particular profession to head that Ministry is that of the office of attorney general, it must be a lawyer. The fact that the minister of health is on this team does not automatically mean that he is going there as a medical doctor.

It could have been minister of culture, it could have been Minister of transport, and it could have been anybody else, so it should not establish any linkage between the presence of Prof. Osotimehin, renowned medical scholar and minister of health, there is no linkage between that at all and the purpose of this visit. The purpose of this visit is exactly what I have told you to express appreciation to the King of Saudi Arabia and also express our solidarity with the first family and register our prayers and the best wishes for the rapid recovery of the president and of course give assurances that under the dynamic leadership of the acting President Goodluck Jonathan, governance is going on.

The executive council remain focused, united and that every issue whether it is infrastructure, health care or education or even diplomacy have been proceeding normally. You can see the flurry of foreign visitors to Nigeria and we need again to have this conversation in Saudi both with the government of Saudi and also members of the first family. You know I went to four countries in West Africa before the last ECOWAS meeting where I met with four presidents apart from their foreign ministers and those assurances were very useful. I would soon be visiting some other countries in Africa not because of the president's health but that Nigeria international role continues to remain robust, vigorous and high profile from what you can see from what happened over the weekend.

Correspondent: When are you returning?
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 carryout the purpose of our going there, we start coming back.

Multiple calls to Maduekwe's Glo cell phone number at 9.40 p.m WAT indicated his phone has been switched off.