Security tight for Nigerian presidential inauguration

The 72-year-old Muhammadu Buhari, who defeated incumbent Goodluck Jonathan in elections two months ago, will be sworn in at a ceremony from 9am (0800 GMT) on Friday before world leaders and other dignitaries.

Among those who have confirmed attendance are South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, US Secretary of State John Kerry and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

The South African presidency released a statement saying: “In his congratulatory message, President Zuma expressed his commitment to working closely with president-elect Buhari to enhance the good bilateral relations which exist between South Africa and Nigeria, paying particular focus on the strengthening of economic co-operation.

“President Zuma also congratulated the people of Nigeria for conducting a peaceful, transparent, credible, free and fair election as declared by the Independent National Election Commission of Nigeria.”

Soldiers were out in force on the streets, including at main entry points into the city, while there was a visible police presence at key locations such as hotels and government buildings.

Roads have been closed around the Eagle Square inauguration venue, where dozens of international flags have been hoisted alongside the Nigerian green, white and green tricolour.

Boko Haram attacks
Nigeria’s federal police chief Solomon Arase said the measures were imposed “to ward off possible plans by insurgents to carry out widespread violence and co-ordinated attacks”.

Boko Haram Islamists waging a bloody, six-year insurgency in Nigeria’s northeast, have hit Abuja before, including twice in the space of a month last April and May, killing nearly 100 people.

On those occasions, the bombings were at a bus station on the outskirts of the city but in June last year, 21 were killed when a blast rocked a shopping mall near the city centre. 

In 2010, twin car bombings claimed by militants from the oil-producing southern Delta region killed 10 people near ceremonies in Abuja to mark 50 years of independence. 

Arase urged members of the public to remain vigilant and co-operate with the security services “to stamp out crimes, including (the) war against terror … to ensure (a) hitch-free inauguration”.

Tourism minister Edem Duke, who is involved with the preparations, told AFP: “All the issues that will make for a successful inauguration have been validated.

“Security has been enhanced. The ceremonial elements have been firmly put in place. The registrar of the Supreme Court is working on the elements of the swearing in.”

Buhari, who headed a military regime in the 1980s, takes office just days after a deal was reached to end a crippling fuel shortage that brought the country to a near standstill.

There were still long queues for petrol and diesel at filling stations, as distributors tried to clear the backlog. – AFP

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