President Goodluck Jonathan has immediately suspended his plan to attend an African Union, A.U., summit in Equatorial Guinea, and will return to Nigeria Thursday after a car bomb killed at least 21 people in Abuja Wednesday.
The president travelled to the Central African nation Wednesday for the A.U. meeting just as a blast hit Emba plaza, a busy shopping complex in Wuse 2, Abuja.
Police said 21 persons had been confirmed dead and 17 injured. Force spokesperson, Frank Mba, said one suspect was arrested.
Presidential spokesperson, Reuben Abati, contacted PREMIUM TIMES late Wednesday to react to an earlier story about the president’s decision to continue the trip amid the explosion.
Mr. Abati denied that the president travelled while Abuja was attacked.
He said the president departed Abuja 3.30 pm Wednesday, which would mean about 30 minutes before the blast. Witnesses had said the bomb occurred at about 4p.m.
He said the president and his entourage were arriving at their hotel in Malabo, the Equatorial Guinean capital, when they received news of the attack.
The president took an immediate decision to return to Nigeria early Thursday, Mr. Abati said.
Mr. Jonathan travelled left to participate in the 23rd Ordinary Session of the African Union’s Summit of Heads of State and Government, Mr. Abati said in a statement.
He was accompanied by his wife, Patience, and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Agriculture, Water Resources, Health and Industry Trade and Investment.
The president planned to return on Friday.
In an earlier statement, Mr. Abati said the discussion at the summit would focus on the evolution and implementation of fresh strategies and measures to improve agricultural production and food security in the continent, among others.
He said this is keeping with the AU’s declaration of 2014 as the Year of Agriculture and Food Security.
The president and other African leaders, participating in the summit, will also deliberate on the appointment of judges of the African Court of Justice, the statement said, according to the News Agency of Nigeria.
“They will deliberate on the appointment of judges of the African Human Rights Court of Justice and the appointment of the President and Vice-President of the Pan-African University,” the statement had said.
“The African heads of state and government will also consider and adopt the decisions and recommendations of the 25th Regular Session of the African Union’s Executive Board.
“They will also consider the Declarations of the 23rd Ordinary Session of the Conference of the union.’’
The presidential delegation is expected back in Abuja at the end of the summit on Friday.