Nigerian outlets reported that President Muhammadu Buhari “disappeared” this week following his meeting at the White House with President Donald Trump.
Local newspaper Premium Times reports that Buhari’s whereabouts remain “shrouded in mystery” two days after he left Washington, with no sign that he arrived in Nigeria.
President @MBuhari has departed Joint Base Andrews Airport for Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja after a Working Visit to Washington DC where he had a bilateral talks with US President @realDonaldTrump, and met with a group of business executives. #PMBinDC pic.twitter.com/QgFgDYN2Sv
— Bashir Ahmad (@BashirAhmaad) May 1, 2018
According to Flight Radar 24, a system that tracks air traffic around the world, Buhari’s presidential airplane left Joint Base Andrews military airfield in Washington on Tuesday morning and unexpectedly arrived in London at 21:42 local time.
Yet by 10:00 the following the morning, the aircraft was still stationed in London. Nigeria’s State House press release failed to mention that Buhari landed in London, or the purpose of the stopover. When local media questioned presidential spokespeople over Buhari’s whereabouts, none of them provided a response.
On Thursday, government officials said Buhari would return to the Nigerian capital of Abuja on Thursday evening on a separate aircraft. Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity Garba Shehu told local media stations that his aircraft was forced to make “a technical stop.”
“PMB arrives Abuja this evening,” wrote Femi Adesina, Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, on Twitter. “The good work of rebuilding Nigeria continues.”
PMB arrives Abuja this evening. The good work of rebuilding Nigeria continues.
— Femi Adesina (@FemAdesina) May 3, 2018
The stopover also raised speculation over the state of Buhari’s health, given that he has previously traveled to London for treatment on an undisclosed condition between 2016 and 2017.
During his three day visit to Washington, Buhari became the first African leader to hold bilateral talks at the White House under the Trump administration, while also holding meetings with various oil executives.
In their joint press conference, Trump and Buhari discussed issues such as Nigeria’s massive corruption, humanitarian aid, the persecution of Christians, efforts to fend off the Islamic terrorist organization Boko Haram, and Trump’s alleged comments about “shithole countries” in Africa.
“The United States of America has been to date the biggest contributor to the humanitarian response,” Buhari said during the meeting,
“I’m very careful with what the press says, other than about myself,” Buhari told reporters on the subject of Trump’s comments. “I’m not sure about the validity or whether that allegation against the president was true or not. So the best thing for me is to keep quiet.”
“Nigeria has a reputation for very massive corruption,” Trump added. “I also know that the President (Buhari) has been able to cut that down very substantially. We talked about that, he is working on it and they have made a lot of progress and I think they will continue to make a lot of progress.”