Nigeria: FG Budgets N850 Million for Jonathan’s Inauguration

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Abuja — ABUJA has budgeted N850 million for the inauguration of Goodluck Jonathan as President on May 29, expected to be witnessed by dignitaries from within and outside the country.

The figure emerged on Monday as United Nations (UN) Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, spoke kind words about Nigeria, buoyed by the free and fair election he said the country conducted last month, because, as he put it, such positive democratic example offers a bright hope for all Africa.

He urged world leaders to emulate Jonathan’s political leadership and his implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Ahmed Yayale, who chairs the Presidential Inauguration Committee, told a press conference in Abuja about the May 29 events Pwhen he inaugurated 14 other sub committees.

The sub committees include venues, utilities and souvenirs, football match, musical/cultural festival and fireworks, security, publicity, Presidential speeches, swearing-in, accommodation, protocol and airport reception, finance, lecture, inauguration banquet, juma’at prayers, church service, and children’s day.

Security has been tightened in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) with police, military, and para-military personnel patrolling everywhere with marked and unmarked vehicles.

Yayale said the government has offered employment to Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) temporary staff and other victims of the violence that erupted after the Presidential ballot on April 16.

Compensation will also be paid to the families of those who died. Ki-Moon arrived Nigeria on Sunday for a three-day visit, which ends today.

He described the election as largely credible and commendable, and implored parties to express their grievances through the courts.

A statement issued by Kayode Idowu, the Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman, Attahiru Jega, said Ki-Moon, who was speaking at a meeting with Jega in Abuja, noted that “whatever the complaints or allegations have been received should be thoroughly and transparently processed through the judicial system.

“This is very much important. But what is important is that there needs to be some firm belief among the people that democracy and all its principles come from ballot boxes, not from violence on the streets. This is what we have to educate the people about.”

He expressed condolences over the loss of lives in the post-election violence, and canvassed enlightenment campaigns to acquaint Nigerians with fundamental procedures and principles of democracy.

Ki-Moon told Jega: “I know that there is cultural unity, but national unity is important for your country. I notice that you have the largest population in Africa. Even though the size is not the biggest, in terms of population, you have the largest in Africa.”

He expressed support for the INEC under the leadership of Jega, saying the UN is eager to work with the Commission to promote participatory democracy in Nigeria.

Jega reassured that the INEC is committed to facilitating genuine democracy in the country. He acknowledged the challenges during the recent polls, but said the INEC did its best to deliver an election that was far more credible than what previously obtained.

Said he: “We have done our best as a Commission to be non-partisan, impartial, and to create a level playing field for all contestants. We are pleased with what we’ve done even though we know it was not perfect.

“There were many areas we have identified from experience, which will require improvement in the future.”

Jega praised the UN for its support, particularly through its role in the Joint Donor Basket. “We received tremendous support and encouragement, and that kind of support really inspired us to be able to do the few things we have done.

“I was very pleased about your comment about the scope for strengthening democracy in our country and we look forward to opportunities for doing that. We on our part are committed to doing our best as a new Commission to further reform the electoral process and to further consolidate the gains made through the April elections.”

Jega said the key challenge for the INEC, post-election, is to develop itself as a very strong election management body, to improve its efficiency and effectiveness, and to restructure and reorganise the things it did not have the time to do before the elections.

He added that the INEC has learnt a lot of lessons from the post-election mayhem in some Northern states, and as it prepares for future elections, it has to integrate the strategy of anticipating and managing such.

Elsewhere in Abuja, Ki-Moon called on world leaders to emulate Jonathan’s political leadership as well as the implementation of the MDGs.

He spoke to reporters after a meeting with Jonathan at the Villa, where he equally commended civil society organisations and the international community for helping Nigeria to achieve the MDGs, particularly in reducing infant and maternal mortality.

He applauded Nigeria’s initiative, noting that “with such a strong political leadership by Jonathan, supported by international community and full participation of the civil societies, the MDG target by 2015 can be met and this is exactly what I have been urging world leaders to come and show leadership on.

“Such leadership role by (Jonathan) and relevant Ministers, communities, and local leaders will be good examples to many countries on the African continent and I highly commend such leadership and vision to have this healthcare Bill passed by the National Assembly. This is again a very important initiative by the government.”

He said across the globe, particularly in Africa, the slowest progressing area among the MDGs is in child mortality and maternal mortality, with about 1,000 women and 22,000 infants dying daily because of complications arising from pregnancy, child delivery, and related illnesses.

“Nigeria has been doing well, your initiative and examples should be emulated and expanded throughout the African continent and that is why I am here. That is what I am raising my voice to the world; first of all, leadership is very important as you have seen in the national healthcare Bill passed by the (Nigerian) National Assembly.

“The international community has mobilised $40 billion and I am here to raise awareness on the importance of preventing the death of women and children. When women and children are healthy, the society is healthy.”

Ki-Moon also commended Nigeria’s contributions to the UN, which range from regional leadership to providing troops for peace-keeping missions.

He said he came to Nigeria to discuss how such partnerships can be strengthened.

“Now you are the fourth largest troop and police contributing country, starting with Darfur, and nine other different areas where your men and women have contributed greatly to the peace and stability of the world, and I deeply appreciate.

“I am very much satisfied and I sincerely hope that Nigeria will continue to play such leadership roles as have been displayed in Cote d’Ivoire as the President of ECOWAS. Still, I count on the continued leadership role in the region and in the world.”

Ki-Moon equally commended Nigerians who have been working for the UN at top level positions – such as Ibrahim Gambari, Joy Ogwu, Babatunde Oshotimehin, Major General Obi (force Commander in Sudan) and Margaret Vogt (Special Representative in Central Africa).

On Nigeria’s quest for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, Ki-Moon said member states have agreed that there is need to reform the body in a democratic and transparent and more representative way – and he has tried to facilitate the negotiations and processes, but Nigeria’s fate “is to be determined and decided by member states.”

Jonathan reiterated Nigeria’s commitment to the ideals of the UN.

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