Vanguard (Lagos)

10 August 2012

Nigeria: Jonathan in Accra, Says Attah-Mills Was Friend of Nigeria

Accra — President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday in Accra said the late Ghanaian President, Prof. John Atta-Mills, was a friend of Nigeria who stood by the country during its moments of trial.

The President made this known while addressing newsmen on arrival at the Kotoka International Airport in the Ghanaian capital for the burial of the late head of state who died on July 24.

He described Atta-Mills as somebody, who was very close to him personally and who was very supportive during Nigerian's trial.

Jonathan said he received the sudden death of Atta-Mills with shock, adding that African leaders would miss him for his sincerity, maturity, humility and modesty.

The President said that the past four to five years had been very bad for Africa in terms of the death of sitting presidents.

"Atta-Mills was somebody that was very close to me; I knew the support he gave me when Nigeria had a similar situation, when our late president was ill until when he finally died.

"When I took over as a President we have been working very closely, discussing regional issues, ECOWAS issues, African issues and international issues," he said.

Hundreds of mourners gather to pay respect to late President John Atta Mills lying in state at the parliament in Accra, on August 8, 2012. Ghana began three days of funeral rites for late president John Atta Mills on Wednesday, with his body to lie in state ahead of his burial to be attended by foreign dignitaries including Jonathan Goodluck and Hillary Clinton. AFP PHOTO

President arrived at Kotoka International Airport at about 9.10 p.m Nigerian time (8.05 p.m local time).

He was received by the Ghanaian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Alhaji Muhammad Mumuni, the Nigeria's High Commissioner to Ghana, Mr Ademola Onafowokan, and his predecessor, Musiliu Obanikoro.

The President was accompanied by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Olugbenga Ashiru, Senators, Emmanuel Paulker, Victor Lar and some presidential aides.

The President left the Airport for the Banquet hall of Ghana Presidential Villa, where the body of Atta-Mills was lying in state.

Jonathan joined other visiting Presidents and Heads of State to pay last respect to Atta-Mills, who died in office after about three and half year of a four-year, first term tenure.

Other presidents from Africa, who had arrived Accra for the event were: Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia; Paul Koroma of Sierra-Leone; Lucas Pohamba of Namibia and Issoufou Mahamadou of Niger.

Also present were Presidents of Saharawi Republic, Tanzania and the South African Vice President.

Jonathan is scheduled to participate in the final burial rites for Atta-Mills on Friday.

He would also meet with Ghana's new leader, President John Dramani Mahama, before returning to Abuja.

Earlier, in an interview, Onafowokan had said that Ghanaians wanted the burial ceremony of their late leader to be very drearily without social events and fun-fair.

"They are really in sorrow; remember the President that died was vying for the election in December. And remember that this President was not 70 years and so to the Ghanaians, he was not old and that is why you see everybody in black and red," he said.

The mood of the funeral, the Kotoka Airport and the major streets in Accra were decorated with black and red sackcloth.

In addition, many Ghanaians on the streets of the capital were also dressed in black and red mourning clothing.

Also at the airport, the national flags of Ghana and those of the countries expected to attend the burial were flying at half mast.

It will be recalled that after Attah-Mills death, the Ghanaian Government had on July 31, sent a five-man delegation to Abuja to deliver a special message to Jonathan and an official invitation to the burial rites of Atta-Mills.

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