HOW JONATHAN, 14 AFRICAN LEADERS CELEBRATED INDEPENDENCE
AMIDST parades, combat match equipment and aerial displays by troops and formations of the military, paramilitary and school children, the final activities for the celebration of NigeriaÃs 50th independence anniversary came to an end at the Eagle Square, Abuja yesterday
The celebrations was witnessed by President Goodluck Jonathan, Vice President Namadi Sambo, members of the National Assembly, former Heads of State and Presidents of Nigeria and 14 Presidents of African nations.
They included the Presidents of Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Benin Republic, Burkina Faso, Cameroun, Chad, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Namibia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, Zambia and Saharawi Arab
Security was initially tight inside the venue of the celebration. But that did not stop an explosion from occurring by the right side of the first stand by the general entrance. Security aides said the blast,
which occurred by 11.10am, was as a result of a gun explosion in the hands of a police officer. But eyewitness account said that it was a bomb explosion hidden inside a can, Two persons including a Policeman were injured in the blast.
On land, only designated vehicles were allowed access to the Three Arms Zone. And in the air, all flights were grounded between 10.30a.m and 3p.m except for aircraft of the Nigerian Air Force involved in aerial display. And despite efforts to control the influx of uninvited guests, the areas surrounding the Eagle Square were filled with Nigerians eager to get into the venue. They were so overwhelming that by 9.30 a.m invited dignitaries found it difficult to get in.
By 10.05a.m, the sun gave way to a cloudy atmosphere and eight minutes later, a heavy downpour started. Most guests were drenched and even security personnel, who were controlling the crowd, hurriedly left their beats allowing the crowd to get into the once restricted areas. Some of the crowd ran into the tent provided by the organisers at the back of the Presidential Pavilion. But the number of people far outweighed the space provided.
All the personnel from the Nigerian Army, Navy, Air Force and Police already formed up for parade were drenched. Then, suddenly, at 10.20 a.m, the sun came on again amidst the continuing drizzle.
At 10.49 a.m, after the convoy carrying visiting Presidents and other top dignitaries had emptied its occupants at the front of the Presidential pavilion, President Jonathan arrived, escorted by Mounted
Troops of the Presidential Guards and Pied Pipers of the Army. Upon being received by Vice President Sambo and Chief of Defence Staff, Air
Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin, the President mounted the rostrum to receive the national salute, flanked by the CDS, Service Chiefs and the inspector General of Police.
Mounting the review vehicle, President Jonathan took a ride and reviewed the parade, waving to the crowds on his way. By 11.05, a Fire Service truck blew its siren as it came from the Police Headquarters axis to the Izom (Bayelsa) House area. By 11.06, the ceremonial parade started, moving from the slow to quick march.
By 11.10a.m, sound was heard inside the right side of the venue. Smoke was seen around the area. Splits seconds later, the Chief of Staff to the President Ã± Mike Oghoigome and Presidential Spokesman Ima Niboro moved immediately to the scene of the blast. By 11.17 a.m. an ambulance belonging to the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence drove to the back of VIP pavilion, with its siren blasting the air. Two bodies were carried into it as it sped off.
By 11.30 a.m, with the last military and police personnel leaving the rostrum area after the Ã¬eyesÃ rightÃ®, President Jonathan moved into the Presidential box. After the national prayers, 60 officers from the rank of Sub-Lieutenant to Captain marched in to the sound of the Army Mass Band, with 60 of the ArmyÃs Regimental colours. After their displays and special match past, other paramilitary troops Ã± Nigerian
Legion, Prisons, Customs, Immigration, Fire Service, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Man OÃ War, War Against Indiscipline, National Youth Service Corps and Sergeant At Arms of the National
Assembly matched past.
They were followed by 1,620 school children. They then held the calisthenics display.
By 12.41p.m. the organisers hurriedly started mounting television sets for the tents they erected since last Thursday, for the viewing of the crowd who had already abandoned the tents after the rains. And by 12.42pm, the combat march by officers of the Nigerian military, Special Forces and Mobile Police troops took place. This was followed by equipment march past. This was a display of the representative equipment holdings of the Nigerian ArmyÃs Infantry, Armoured, Artillery, Engineers and other Corps of the Service. They showed off their Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs), tanks, artillery guns, trucks and other equipment. In the air, seven aircraft in the inventory of the Nigerian Air Force conducted aerial displays, showing off different formations in the air.
By1.05p.m. President Jonathan mounted the rostrum again to receive the National Salute. By1.06p.m. the sounds of the 21-gun salute boomed in the distance. With the National Anthem played, President Jonathan decorated the CDS and the Service Chiefs with their independence medals. He then signed the anniversary register before the ceremonial release of pigeons.