President Buhari (R) shakes hands with Akwa Ibom governor, Udom Emmanuel, while Ifeanyi Okowa Nyesom Wike look on.

OBINNA EZUGWU

The presidency has said the failure of federal government delegation to attend a meeting of South South governors and thought leaders on Tuesday, was because of an emergency security meeting called by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu who gave the explanation in a statement on Thursday, said delegation to the meeting, under the Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, ministers and heads of security and intelligence agencies were in full readiness to proceed to Port Harcourt until they were directed to stay back for the emergency security meeting.

Failure of the delegation to attend the meeting held in Port Harcourt, had sparked angry response from leaders of the zone who described it as an affront to the zone despite its enormous contribution to the country.

Leader of the South South governors Forum and governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa had in a statement, demanded an apology from the federal government for failing to attend the meeting.

But Shehu in the statement said the “regret for the inconvenience caused were conveyed to the hosts of the meeting through what we believed were the right channels.”

According to him, “The Presidency wishes to explain that the absence of the federal government delegation at the planned meeting with governors and stakeholders of the South-South region was necessitated by an emergency security meeting summoned by the President, certainly not out of disrespect.

“The delegation to the meeting, under the Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, ministers and heads of security and intelligence agencies were in full readiness to proceed to Port Harcourt until they were directed to stay back for the emergency security meeting.

“This information and regret for the inconvenience caused were conveyed to the hosts of the meeting through what we believed were the right channels.

“As may have been gleaned from the statement read by the Minister of Police Affairs, Muhammad Maigari Dingyadi, the extraordinary National Security Council meeting, under the President, was called in view of the gravity of the security situation affecting all parts of the country, including the South-South in the aftermath of the ENDSARS protests, and the need to rise to protect our national security and territorial integrity.

“The President is strongly and resolutely committed to hearing from leaders, stakeholders and our youth on burning issues affecting all parts of the federation, and to this effect, a new date for the meeting with the South-South will be agreed after due consultations with the parties concerned.

“Once again, the unavoidable postponement of the meeting is regretted.”