By Ismaila Chafe
President Muhammadu Buhari has returned to Abuja after his visit to the United Kingdom, where he held bilateral talks on Nigeria – British relations and also participated in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting ( CHOGM).
The President on April 9 left Abuja for London after he announced his intention to seek re-election in the 2019 general election.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the presidential aircraft which left London at about 1p.m.(Nigerian time), landed at the presidential wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, at about 7.10p.m.
President Buhari was received at the airport by service chiefs, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Alhaji Muhammed Bello and Chief of Staff to the President, Malam Abba Kyari.
Others at the airport to welcome the president included the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu and other presidential aides.
While in London President Buhari on April 16 held bilateral talks with British Prime Minister, Theresa May, where he asked for more British investments in Nigeria.
Buhari commended British companies; Unilever, Cadbury, and many others.
The President noted that the companies had stood with Nigeria through thick and thin. He said they remained in Nigeria even when the country fought a civil war.
“But like Oliver Twist, we ask for more investments. We are encouraging more British companies to come to Nigeria.
“We appreciate the support you have given in training and equipping our military, particularly in the war against insurgency, but we want to also continue to work with you on trade and investment.’’
Buhari also briefed the Prime Minister on the strides in agriculture, which he said had put Nigeria firmly on the road to food self-sufficiency.
“I am very pleased with the successes in agriculture. We have cut rice importation by about 90 per cent, made lots of savings of foreign exchange, and generated employment.
“People had rushed to the cities to get oil money at the expense of farming. But luckily, they are now going back to the farms. Even professionals are going back to the land.
“We are making steady progress on the road to food security,’’ he said.
The President recalled that the All Progressives Congress-led government had campaigned on three major issues, to secure the country, revive the economy and fight corruption.
According to him, as the 2019 general election approaches, politicians are already pre-occupied with the polls, while he is bothered more about security and the economy.
“We have elections next year, politicians are already pre-occupied with the polls, but I am bothered more about security and the economy,’’ he stressed.
Prime Minister May, in her remarks, said Britain would continue to work with Nigeria in the areas of training and equipping the military.
She also said that her country would continue to assist Nigeria on the rehabilitation of abducted schoolgirls freed from by Boko Haram.
On April 18 President Buhari delivered his keynote address at the Commonwealth Business Forum at Guildhall, London, where he enjoined leaders of the Commonwealth to avoid trade wars and work collectively to preserve the global trading order.
The Commonwealth Business Forum (CBF) with the theme, “Making Business Easier between Commonwealth Countries”, was part of events at this year’s Commonwealth Heads of State Meeting, CHOGM- 25.
President Buhari said: “If we are to make business easier between our countries and going beyond the Commonwealth, we must avoid trade wars and work collectively to preserve the global trading order, support regional initiatives as well as support domestic structural reforms that focus on the priorities of individual countries.”
He reiterated his belief in wealth creation and employment opportunities within the Commonwealth.
President Buhari called on the members of the Commonwealth Business Forum and prospective investors to participate in the 2018 “UK/Nigeria Trade and Investment Forum” at the London Stock Exchange.
The President also met with the Chief Executive Officer of Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Mr Ben van Beurden in connection with Shell and other partners’ plan to invest $15b in Nigeria’s oil industry.
NAN observed that no statement was issued on the outcome of the meeting which was held behind closed doors.
However, an earlier statement in Abuja by the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, said the Shell investment ventures would lay “the foundation for the next 20 years production and domestic gas supply, bringing with it all the attendant benefits both to the economy and the wider society.’’
President Buhari also met with the Archbishop of Canterbury, His Grace Justin Welby and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, in London.
Archbishop Welby said it was always a delight to see President Buhari, “whom I have tremendous respect for.’’
“You have my best wishes on your recent decision. I read your declaration speech.
“We are neutral as a church, but we will pray for you. Great statesmen are those who run for the good of their country. We will be praying for you.”
The Archbishop presented President Buhari with a copy of his recent book, ‘Reimagining Britain. Foundations for Hope.
President Buhari on April 15 received members of the Buhari Diaspora Support Organisation, led by Mr Charles Sylvester. He reassured the group that his administration would always justify the trust and confidence reposed in it by Nigerians.
He said:“We will do our best to justify your trust in us, and that confidence won’t be abused.
“I am happy that people like you are here on your own, defending the country. You have shown courage and sacrifice.
“I assure you that your confidence in us won’t be abused, we will do our best to justify it.”
President Buhari also said that Nigeria was gifted with tremendous human and natural resources, but regretted that “the failure of some of the leadership we had in the past led to our not being able to capitalise on resources to improve the lot of the people.”
The President said his administration has not done too badly benchmarked against the state of the nation in 2015.
He explained that government was doing its best to recover looted funds, noting, however that it was impossible to identify and recover all the loots.
NAN reports that the president’s visit to London witnessed various rallies in support of his administration.
On April 20 some Nigerians converged in front of the Nigerian High Commission in London, to rally in support of the APC-led Federal Government.
“The President is resetting the country on the path of growth and development,’’ said Mr. Stephen Kifordu, from Delta State, the leader of the group.
According to him, there is no credible alternative to Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in the 2019 election, noting that the group represents the aspiration of many Nigerians who want progress for Nigeria.
Kifordu said “Nigeria is attractive to investors because of Buhari’s fight against corruption in the country.’’
He claimed that the previous administration gave room for rot and corrupt activities.
“We have a President in Nigeria that people can look at and trust that “If I invest in Nigeria, my investment will not be stolen.
“When we talk of security, he has done security in terms of Boko Haram and in terms of the Niger Delta,” he said.
Explaining further how President Buhari is ‘resetting’ the country, Kifordu said “it is the primary role of the police and not the military to protect Nigerian citizens and President Buhari is enforcing this.
“The Police is the number one organisation that takes care of our security. It is only when we are under attack that the military comes in.
“In past years, we have seen the issue when the military jumps on board without paying regard to the police. Then suddenly when something happens in Nigeria, Mr President says deploy the police, people are saying don’t deploy the police.
“President Buhari is resetting our country. He is bringing us back to the way things should be.”
This support rally came 24 hours after a group bearing Biafran flags staged a protest in front of the Commonwealth House in Westminister, London.