Nigeria's Jonathan starts handover to Buhari

2015-05-28 21:14
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and presidential candidate of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) embraces leading opposition All Progressive Congress presidential candidate Mohammadu Buhari during a conference to promote non-violence att

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and presidential candidate of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) embraces leading opposition All Progressive Congress presidential candidate Mohammadu Buhari during a conference to promote non-violence att (STRINGER)

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Abuja - Nigeria's outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday showed Muhammadu Buhari around his new quarters, as the former military ruler prepared to take over as elected head of state.

The 57-year-old took Buhari and his vice-president-elect Yemi Osinbajo on a tour of the presidential villa, Aso Rock, in Abuja, before submitting his formal handover notes.

Buhari, 72, defeated Jonathan in March 28 elections - the first time in Nigeria's history that an opposition candidate had beaten a sitting president.

He takes over as head of Africa's most populous nation, top economy and leading oil producer as it limps back to normality after fuel shortages that brought the country to a near standstill.

Buhari's All Progressives Congress (APC) accused Jonathan's Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of orchestrating the crisis to scupper the transition.

Jonathan told him: "Our administration has done its best to intervene robustly and impact positively on key aspects of our national life."

'You could have made things difficult'

As well as preventing further fuel supply problems and endemic corruption, Buhari faces the task of bringing an end to the Boko Haram insurgency, which has claimed at least 15 000 lives since 2009.

"Victory is now in sight and within our reach," said Jonathan, referring to a military offensive that has driven out the Islamists from captured towns and territory in the northeast.

"However, the cost in blood of citizens and heroes and the diversion of national treasures from urgent needs for development have been very high."

Hundreds of kidnapped women and children have been freed in recent weeks and Jonathan said it was his "sincere hope" that 219 schoolgirls held since April last year would soon be rescued.

Jonathan was criticised for his response to the mass abduction, but nothing has been seen or heard from the schoolgirls since May last year, when many of them appeared in a Boko Haram video.

Buhari has said he cannot make promises for their safe return, but his government "will do everything in its power to bring them home".

Jonathan leaves office with his reputation enhanced by having telephoned Buhari to concede even before the final election results were in, averting potential violence from his supporters.

Buhari praised him for his statesmanship and recognised: "You could have made things difficult and that would have been at the expense of lives of poor Nigerians."

Security tight 

Heads of state, including President Jacob Zuma, and Western dignitaries such as US Secretary of State John Kerry, are to attend Friday's inauguration, which starts at 0800 GMT.

Soldiers were out in force on the streets of Abuja, 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 and white triband.

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 coordinated attacks".

Boko Haram has hit Abuja before, including twice in the space of a month last April and May, killing nearly 100 people.

On those occasions, the bombings struck 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 cooperate with the security services "to stamp out crimes, including (the) war against terror... to ensure (a) hitch-free inauguration".

Read more on:    muhamamdu buhari  |  goodluck jonathan  |  nigeria  |  nigeria 2015 election

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