Some of the “little things” that define Nigeria were on show at the summit.
The just concluded Abuja+12 special summit of the African Union which held in Abuja, was a highlight of beauty and the beast of some sorts.
The conference in which Heads of States and Governments of the African Union Commission attended from July 12th to 16th, presented a string of surprises to local and foreign attendees, and even some of the organizers.
One of the surprises unfolded hours before the commencement of the meeting as the organizers of the summit held at the International Conference Centre, “brushed” aside modern and safe techniques of tidying the facility’s rugged and enclosed interior, and opted instead for local brooms less than two hours before the top dignitaries arrived the venue.
Scores of workers filled up the area early morning Monday, sweeping the rugs with the dried palm fronds, stirring the dust in the enclosed building.
Using local brooms in sweeping a large carpeted enclosed space like the ICC, which is air-conditioned, leaves dust in the air and is apparently unhygienic.
Cyril Chukwu, a Chest Physician with the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, Idi-Araba affirmed that concern particularly for asthmatics and people with respiratory medical defects.
Ademola Obatan, Chief Executive Officer of Squeaky Clean, an industrial cleaning firm based in Lagos also expressed surprise at the “anomaly”.
“It wouldn’t have cost them a fortune to hire vacuum cleaners for the few days of the event if they didn’t want to lease the cleaning to an industrial cleaning firm, he said.
One of organizers who refused to be quoted, fearing he may be victimized, also expressed surprise.
“We received so much money for the organizing of this event and using proper, befitting and healthier industrial sweepers would have been appropriate. You know how things happen in Nigeria,” the staff said before hurrying away.
Cleaning the venue with local brooms was not the only wonder of the event. There were tangled cables all over the floor and ceiling of the venue which was unlike other International Conference Centres in other climes.
One of the delegates who simply identified himself as Dr. Osei said “It’s an embarrassing sight. “To think that global personalities will be here seeing all these. You needed to have been here yesterday (Sunday), you would have cringed with shame had you seen the carpenters knocking away to create this makeshift venue,” Mr. Osei, a Ghanaian, said.
Network cut at venue
At the just concluded Women Deliver Conference in Kuala-Lumpur, Malaysia- May 26th to May 30th, which had numerous global leaders in attendance, including Nigerians and their leaders, one of the hallmark of the event was its unceasing online presence.
While the leaders were at the Kuala-Lumpur Convention Centre, venue of the event, an uninterrupted internet connectivity allowed the people and the organizers tweet about the event as it unfolded. The same happened at the recently concluded Insurance conference in Egypt last month.
In Abuja, it was the exact opposite despite adequate funding made available for the event by the government.
Immediately the Heads of State and African leaders arrived, internet connections and even mobile network services were disconnected. Security was cited as the reason.
PRC meeting to be postponed
While the members of the Permanent Representative Council and ambassadors met Friday July 12th at the Executive Hall of the ICC, the microphones as at 10am when the meeting commenced, were not working, drawing a warning from the council’s chairman to postpone the meeting indefinitely if the devices failed to work when they resumed by 6pm.
Had that happened, the meeting by the Heads of States and AU Government would not have held as it is the outcome of the PRC’s deliberation they work with.
Compulsory fasting for journalists
The event was scheduled to commence by 10am on Monday and media men and women were instructed to be seated at the venue by7.30am which most of them obeyed. They had been told no one will be allowed in once the president arrives.
As a result, the “early birds” left their homes as early as 6.30am and some were already at the venue at that time. To make it right on time, many had no breakfast before leaving their homes and hotel rooms.
Once at the venue, no one was allowed out of the main gate. Unfortunately, as at past 11am, the event was yet to commence. When it finally did, journalists, drawn from across the continent, had no way of leaving to have food, and the central meal some had hoped for, turned out strictly regulated under a four-level grading arrangement- meaning without four clearance cards, one got nothing.
Some of the media men who were unaware of the development went to the food table only to be turned back. On a compulsory fast, many of them only watched others munch away at their meals.
“Don’t you have president where you’re coming from? Don’t you know that you’re supposed to stop and stand when the presidential entourage is driving past?” a police officer yelled out dramatically at a non-Nigerian Observing Partner who was walking down the side of the road to the ICC.
Most roads in Abuja had been barricaded, thus causing traffic. Except in a plush car, every other person, no matter the status or relevance to the event, were expected to alight and embark on a long walk to the ICC. It exactly the fate that befell the Observing Partner.
Too angry, he yelled back when asked for an interview “please, leave me alone, I am sick and tired of your country’s embarrassment and harassment.
“Your security operatives are so disorganized, confused, power-drunk, uncivil and uncourteous and even your organizers put people who can’t communicate properly at key positions. Please, leave me alone.”