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Lagos on lockdown as Buhari makes historic visit

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Nigeria’s economic capital Lagos was on a lockdown Thursday as President Muhammadu Buhari makes his first official visit to the city of 22 million inhabitants since coming to power in 2015.

The president rarely travels outside of Abuja, home to the government seat, and has only visited a few of Nigeria’s 36 states over the past three years.

For Thursday’s visit, many businesses including banks, shops and markets were shut in the fifth largest economy on the continent.

Hundreds of commuters and workers were stranded at bus stops to allow for a hitch-free visit, with many forced to trek several kilometres to their destinations as commercial buses were off the roads.

“I left home around 5:00 am to enable me get to work. I had to use alternative routes because the main road has been blocked,” Ahmed Busari, a port clearing agent, told AFP.

There was heavy security presence in the city as police and para-military forces patrolled the streets.

Roads have been swept clean and painted in Nigeria’s national colours of white and green, and flags of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party adorned all the routes where Buhari’s motorcade was set to pass through.

Banners and billboards with the president’s photographs were also put up along the roads.

The state government declared Thursday a work-free day for civil servants to allow them to welcome the 75-year-old leader.

During his visit, Buhari is set to launch the construction of a 1.5-billion dollar deep sea port in Epe and tour the Eko Atlantic project, a new coastal city described as the “Dubai of Africa” being built from the coastline of Victoria Island, an affluent Lagos suburb.

He will also inaugurate a bus terminal and attend a colloquium in honour of APC national leader Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a former governor of the state.

Information commissioner Kehinde Bamigbetan said the roads were closed to traffic “to ensure smooth, security-free visit of the president”.

He said the temporary road closure and diversions would be within Ikeja, Maryland, Agege Motor Road, Victoria Island and Ikoyi axis.

State police commissioner Imohini Edgal said adequate security arrangement had been made with the deployment of police, military and other officers to strategic points in the city.

“Security engagements are in top gear, as we are working with the Federal Road Safety Corps, Nigerian Navy, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Lagos State Traffic Management Authority and the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency,” he said.

An earlier planned trip to Lagos in May 2016 was aborted at the last minute, with a terse statement from the presidency saying Buhari had an ear infection.

He was then represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.


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