19 April 2014

Nigeria: Pakistani President Cancels Visit to Nigeria Over Boko Haram Attacks

Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain has called off a planned visit to Nigeria after a deadly bomb killed at least 75 people in the Nigerian capital Abuja this week.

Mr. Hussain was scheduled to begin a three-day visit to Abuja on Monday, but the trip was cancelled amid security concerns, diplomatic officials told PREMIUM TIMES Friday.

The Pakistan Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ahmed Sirohey, confirmed the trip has been suspended but denied the decision was connected to security fears in Nigeria.

Mr. Sirohey said the visit was cancelled to allow President Hussain address "pressing domestic commitments". He did not provide details of those commitments or when the Pakistani government realized their urgency to suspend a long-planned trip.

"Due to pressing concerns in Pakistan, the visit of the president to Nigeria has been postponed; we shall use our diplomatic channel to agree on a new date," Mr. Sirohey said.

Dauda Danladi, Nigeria's High Commissioner to Pakistan, who also confirmed the postponement, according to the News Agency of Nigeria, said the Nigerian government has already been briefed by the Pakistani authorities.

But senior officials of the Pakistani embassy in Nigeria told PREMIUM TIMES the decision was taken in direct response to Nigeria's increasing security troubles that have seen more than 100 people killed since Monday, and 129 school girls abducted by suspected Boko Haram militants.

More than a dozen people were killed in separate clashes in Taraba State in addition to the 75 killed in Monday's deadly car bomb attack at a bus station in Nyanya, a few kilometres from the Abuja city centre.

The cancellation of the Pakistani president's trip is another blow to Nigeria's struggling image abroad, further badly dented this week by the government's handling of the abduction of schoolgirls in the north-eastern state of Borno.

The military Thursday retracted earlier claim that all but eight of the missing girls had been freed.

Pakistan itself faces some of the world's most horrific terrorist insurgency with a decade-old struggle against the Taliban.

Mr. Hussain was initially billed to arrive Nigeria with 70 government officials and textile tycoons on the invitation of President Goodluck Jonathan.

The Pakistani deputy envoy to Nigeria, Mr. Sirohey, said the trip- the first in 32 years- would have enabled both countries to explore cooperation in petroleum resources, energy and domestic gas.

"We have huge pipe-to-gas across the country and there are about eight million customers served by our Natural Gas Company and they are provided gas in their houses," he had told journalists ahead of the planned Monday visit.

"Bills are sent to customers at the end of the month and the bill for a house of six people is not more than N300 per month. If it is a big house like you have in Maitama district in Abuja it is not more than N1500."

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