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Thursday, 7 February, 2002, 10:16 GMT
Low-key reception for Blair
The streets of Abuja remain much as normal
By the BBC's Mannir Dan-Ali in Abuja

As Tony Blair arrived in Abuja, there was little to suggest that the British Prime Minister was visiting Nigeria's capital.

There are no posters or buntings in the streets of Abuja. The feverish, last-minute preparation which usually heralds the arrival of foreign dignitaries was absent.

The situation sharply contrasts with the visit of the then United States President Bill Clinton in 2000. During that visit much of the city was decorated with posters of the visiting president and his host President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Tell Mr Blair that we have no jobs

Abuja resident

American flags fluttered at major junctions and state radio was full of details about the visit. Mr Clinton even took a walk at the village of Ushafa about 30 minutes drive from Abuja.

In the aftermath of the 11 September attacks in the United States, there are heightened security concerns. Everything about Mr Blair's visit seem to be shrouded in secrecy.

He will just shuttle from his hotel to the president's office and the national assembly.

The only sign of the visit is that prospective guests at the city's leading hotel have been told it is overbooked and a red carpet has already been laid at its doors.

Nigerians unaware

Ordinary Nigerians do not seem to know anything about the visit.

At the popular Berger junction in Abuja on Wednesday, most of the bricklayers, masons and other labourers who gather there everyday in search of a day's employment asked me why Mr Blair was coming.

Nigerian men
Life continues as normal for most Nigerians

One of them said: ''We are ordinary workers here and we don't know if it has anything to do with us.''

But even among those who are unaware of the prime minister's trip, there are high expectations about what he could do.

"Tell Mr Blair that we have no jobs," another man said, while a plumber, Okechukwu Eze had one request for Mr Blair:

"Let him come to Berger Junction and see how we are suffering. He can help us tell our president to provide jobs for us," he said.

Official circle

Joseph Essien is one of those who welcome the visit and expect that as the leader of the former colonial power, Mr Blair should take a more active role in solving the country's social, economic and political problems.

Refugee flees ethnic fighting in Lagos, Nigeria
The West wants to see more stability in African nations

After a session of bilateral talks and lunch with President Obasanjo on Thursday, Mr Blair is expected to deliver a speech to a joint sitting of the national assembly in the afternoon.

As he delivers that speech, many Nigerians will be keen to hear specific commitment on matters that affect their day to day life.

But one official at the president's office said he was unaware if the visiting prime minister will meet any one else outside the official circle.

See also:

07 Feb 02 | Africa
Blair's African contrasts
06 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Blair back to world stage
05 Feb 02 | Business
Blair mulls Africa's economy
08 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Perils of a globetrotting PM
08 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Blair flies home to frosty welcome
06 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Blair handles diplomacy hazards
08 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Make or break on transport
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