Contrary to claims by the Presidency, President Muhammadu Buhari failed to attend Thursday’s South East economic summit because of security reports indicating the likelihood of violence by Biafra agitators.
Mr. Buhari was expected to be the special guest of honour at the regional summit which held in Enugu state.
The event was put together by some prominent citizens from the region, including former Commonwealth Secretary General, Emeka Anyaoku.
Mr. Buhari neither attended the event nor sent a representative.
There were speculations that the absence of the president was due to a threat issued by the separatist Biafra group.
The Indigenous People of Biafra has been campaigning for the independence of the people of the south-east, majority of whom are of Igbo extraction.
The leader of the group, Nnamdi Kanu, has been in government custody since he was first arrested by the State Security Service, SSS, in October 2015.
Members of the group have repeatedly clashed with the Nigeria’s security agencies.
After media reports suggested that Mr. Buhari stayed away from the event for fear of his safety, his spokesperson, Garba Shehu, issued a statement saying the president did not boycott the event.
He claimed the president was advised by some representatives of the south-east not to attend, given “the sensitivity of the (Christmas) period to the people”.
A presidential visit may have come with overexertion and possibly, be disruptive of Christmas, he said.
“In view of this, President Buhari requested that the event be pushed forward to January, 2017. Given his nature, he did not insist. He said if the change of date is not possible, then the event can go on without him. That is what the organizers chose to do.
“The President did not, and he absolutely has no reason to snub anyone,” Mr. Shehu said.
However, one of the organisers of the event told PREMIUM TIMES that Mr. Buhari was advised against attending the event due to security concerns.
“Almost all the security agencies provided intel that there might be violence if the President attends the summit,” our source said.
He said IPOB members were serious about their threat to attack the summit if the president attended.
“Of course nothing would have happened to the president but the fear is that several persons may lose their lives in the bid to atop anyone from harming the president.
“It was therefore, rightly agreed that it was better to avoid bloodshed,” he said.