A photograph of President Muhammadu Buhari and his wife, Aisha.
• Daughter smuggled in through back door • Guests keep mum on president’s health
• Met police briefed on Nigerian situation • Balarabe Musa wants illness probed
Members of President Muhammadu Buhari’s household continued to evade The Guardian’s reporter in London yesterday.They were forced to enter the Abuja House in London through the back door so as not to be seen by the reporter when a Mercedes Jeep bringing them back to the premises arrived around 4:09 p.m.
On sighting the reporter outside the official residence of the Nigerian high commissioner to the United Kingdom, the driver drove very close to the main door and by the time they noticed the reporter had run to the second gate, they didn’t use the front entrance that had been opened by one of the members of staff inside.
Rather, the vehicle reversed very close to the side door and dropped off the occupants. One of the girls sighted on Sunday looked back carefully, and her eyes and those of the reporter met, before she went in through the side door.
Security staff at the Abuja House hung the phone on The Guardian when the reporter arrived at 3:50 p.m. yesterday.When the entry phone was pressed and a security official picked it, the reporter requested to speak to “any member of the house or official of the High Commission.” The security man replied: “You have to go to the High Commission.” When told that “I don’t want the High Commission, I want to speak to any member of the staff working here,” he insisted, “You have to go to the High Commission, there’s no one to speak to,” before
angrily hanging up.
On Sunday, two guests leaving the residence around 4:54 p.m. were greeted “evening, sirs” before being asked twice, “Did you see Mr. president?” None of the two replied, but gave this reporter a look, before walking to the end of the street.
The two London Metropolitan Police constables -Marlett and Sock – who were called to arrest The Guardian reporter in front of the Abuja House, on Sunday afternoon were given a crash course on why Nigerians want to know the true situation of President Buhari’s extended medical leave.
“This is the official residence of the Nigerian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, so it is Nigerian property,” the reporter told the policemen, as they started interrogating him about why he had come to spend the Sunday afternoon at the Kensington address.
The Guardian explained: “Our president has been on vacation since last month and should have resumed since February 6, but we are being told by his people that he is resting here and awaiting the results of some medical tests. So, Nigerians just want to know if he is here and for him to speak to them.”
One guest who was departing could not be smuggled through the side door as he was on a wheelchair. The presence of The Guardian in front of the house seemed to have created a dilemma for people in the Abuja House, as it took them about 10 minutes between when a silver Mercedes Benz cab was parked in front of the house and when the wheelchair-bound guest was brought out and carried inside the cab. About three people accompanied him out and everyone was smiling until the reporter tried waving the Benz to stop on its way out.
The action drew the fury of one of the insiders, a grey-haired man. He approached the reporter, pointing his finger and warning him not to stop the cab nor talk to the people inside as it drove out around 4:30 p.m.
About five minutes later, another blue Mercedes Benz arrived with a female occupant. Not only did she too used the side entrance, the driver was instructed to park so close to its door, when it was time to offload the contents of the boot.
Meanwhile, a pro-democracy and non-governmental organisation, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has condemned the reported harassment of The Guardian reporter by officials of the Abuja House at the weekend.
The group also asked the National Assembly to sanction officials of the country’s embassy in Ontario, Canada who were accused of corruption and extorting Nigerians to renew their passports.
In a statement by the National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko and National Media Affairs Director, Zainab Yusuf in Abuja yesterday, HURIWA described the invitation of the Metropolitan Police of London to arrest the journalist as outrageous, more so when the reporter was legitimately attempting to provide Nigerian readers with accurate information on the wellbeing of President Buhari.
HURIWA faulted the claim by the embassy officials that the Nigerian house was a private residence, saying the place was acquired with taxpayers’ money, so it is a public asset belonging to the people of Nigeria.
On the allegation of corruption at the Nigerian embassy in Canada, the rights group urged Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara to intervene and ensure transparency in their operations.
Also, the Chairman of the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP), Alhaji Balarabe Musa has urged the National Assembly to commence an investigation into the state of health of Buhari and his eligibility to continue as the country’s head of state.
In an interview with The Guardian, Musa blamed the executive for the poor management of information on the president’s treatment abroad.
“That is why we want the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives to commence an investigation and unveil the truth about the health of the president. If he is found not capable of continuing in office as head of state, he should resign,” he said.