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Residents groan, businesses falter as Buhari visits Lagos

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Governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode (left); his wife Bolanle; President Muhammadu Buhari; National Leader of APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; his wife, Sen Oluremi; Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbanjo and his wife, Dolapo during the cutting of the cake to mark the 66th birthday and 10th Bola Tinubu colloquium in Lagos…yesterday.PHOTO: FEMI ADEBESIN-KUTI


• Restricted movement disrupts flights, costs airlines revenue
• 34 years after cancelling metroline, president opens bus terminal
• At colloquium, visitor, Osinbajo, others extol Tinubu’s virtues
• Ex-gov’s remarks, admittance of APC’s failure, says PDP

Lagos residents yesterday groaned under gridlock caused at different locations in the city by President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit to the state.The state government had announced on Tuesday that movement would be restricted to certain areas during the president’s visit, promising that alternative routes would be created.

Some residents who spoke with The Guardian expressed disappointment over the way security operatives handled the situation, keeping them helpless by blocking most of the routes to their work places.

Many said they left their homes as early as 3:00 a.m. to beat the roadblocks mounted by security operatives, but they were not successful as early as that time.When The Guardian visited Agege motor road, along Oshodi road, a large crowd of people were seen trekking and sweating profusely as only a few commercial vehicles operated. They rained abuses on the state government on the way the Buhari’s visit negatively affected them.

The few commercial buses that operated yesterday increased transportation fare by over 100 per cent. For instance, buses going to ‘Ikeja Along’ from Oshodi charged N200, instead of the usual N100. The commercial drivers defended the fare increase, saying they had to drive through the streets of Ladipo to connect to PWD Bus Stop.

The Guardian’s reporter who boarded a bus to Ikeja noticed that all the passengers spoke angrily on the stress they went through to get to their destinations.A mother cuddling a crying baby described the visit as a huge burden to Lagosians. “Why should the visit to Lagos be different from that of other states? It is we the poor masses that are suffering it because the terminal he is coming to commission, the fare will not be reduced, it is still we the masses that will pay for it.”

Another man who identified himself as Wale Onimu said: “When I heard the announcement that some roads would be blocked, I had to leave home as early as 4:00 a.m. for Victoria Island where my office is located. Buhari’s visit to Lagos caused havoc to the residents.”One of the passengers compared Buhari’s visit to that of the former president, Goodluck Jonathan: “Look at what Buhari’s visit is causing us now. When Jonathan was in power, he visited Lagos regularly and we all went about our regular activities without any stress. I don’t know why Buhari’s visit is different. I don’t know why the stress would be this much, I would have stayed in my house.”

Domestic flight operations were yesterday disrupted nationwide due to the restriction of movement on some major routes in Lagos.The restriction, which began as early as 3:00 a.m., left a lot of the local and international passengers stranded and unable to catch their morning flights.The development forced local carriers to delay all morning flights out of Lagos for hours, causing a ripple effect on connecting flights in Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kano and Enugu among other airports across the country.

Apart from the delays, some of the airlines flew at half the load factor to avoid cancellation, which cost them in millions.The Chief Operating Officer of one of the airlines told The Guardian that the “unfortunate twist of event” may cost him in excess of N20 million, having cancelled two of his eight Lagos-Abuja daily flights yesterday.

“It seems some people just forget that Lagos is the hub that feeds all other routes. So, practically shutting down Lagos is like disrupting all flights nationwide. We could have done better as a state,” he said on condition of anonymity.The access road connecting international and local terminals was at a standstill due to traffic spillover and disruption at the Ikeja end of Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway.

As part of the lockdown plan of the state government, the busy Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway had been truncated at both Ile-Zik and PWD axis, blocking traffic flow in and out of the airport area.Aviation security consultant, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd), however, blamed the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) for not issuing adequate directives on the situation.

Some residents expressed their view on the visit in their twitter handles:
@biolakazeem: Lagos is shut down because the president is in town to commission a bus station. Not an underground train station or even a monorail. A bus station. A state supposedly led by a lettered man. Nigeria is finished. We can pack and go home now.

@DemolaRewaju: Agents of the state are mobilising 10 people from each ward in Lagos with a promise of N3,000 to come and hail Buhari while the police have caged the NBA Ikeja branch which wished to protest against Ambode’s retrogressive policies. Any crowd you see in Lagos today is rented.

@Chxta: The compulsory exercise that we are participating in in Lagos today isn’t because of the old man… It’s the pot-bellied one that is doing eye service that we should direct our ire at.

@newscantell: Ambode declared tomorrow as work-free because Buhari is coming to commission a bus stop in Lagos. Lagos is the 5th largest economy in Africa. The person that declared tomorrow work-free, the person that will commission the bus stop, and the people that will attend are all not serious.

@akaebube: This new airport terminal in Lagos was built and commissioned by GEJ. No public holiday was declared for its commissioning. No road closures. No fanfare. Buhari is coming to Lagos to commission a “Bus stop” and we have a state of emergency on our hands.

@gossyomega: People booked their flights many weeks ago, so many people are flying out of Lagos for Easter. Yet you block roads leading to the Airport with 24hour notice.

Meanwhile, about three decades after the Lagos metro line project was cancelled by President Muhammadu Buhari, then as military head of state, he yesterday commissioned the ultra-modern Ikeja Bus Terminal on the first day of his ongoing visit to the state.The president, accompanied by government functionaries, lauded Governor Akinwunmi Ambode-led government for catering for the movement of the growing population of the state and making modern buses available to the people.    
  
“I acknowledge the vision of Lagos State government to revamping the railway transportation system. Presently, we have outlined in new-year message of the plan for a-pan African railway transportation. I commend Lagos State for also developing rail infrastructure to cater for movement of its growing population,” Buhari said.He promised the Federal Government would adhere to its plan for transport infrastructure, especially the ports.

Earlier, Governor Ambode said the bus terminal signposted the commitment of his administration to provide a functional, efficient and integrated transport system to support the populace and facilitate commerce.“The first phase of this programme will see 13 new bus terminals introduced, including major terminals at Oshodi, Yaba, Ojota, Agege and the already completed Tafawa Balewa terminal.
 
“We have commenced the introduction of 5,000 new buses into the Lagos economy in the next three years. We will inject 820 environmentally-friendly high capacity buses in the first phase of this reform by September 2018, 300 new bus stops, three bus depots, and intelligent transport system which will aid Lagosians to plan their journeys on our public transport system,” Ambode said.

AT the 10th colloquium, marking the 66th birthday anniversary of All Progressives Congress (APC) Leader, Bola Tinubu, President Buhari joined other leaders and well-wishers, including Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and Ambode, to extol the political dexterity of the former Lagos State governor.

Leaders of the APC used the occasion to praise Ambode and to sustain attacks on other political parties, especially the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the inchoate third force being promoted by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Dignitaries on the occasion included Governors Abdualfatah Ahmed (Kwara), Ibikunle Amosu (Ogun), Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo); Godwin Obaseki (Edo); Rochas Okorocha (Imo); Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna) and senators Barnabas Gemade, Ben Bruce, Andy Uba and Borofice. Also at the event were former governors Segun Osoba; Adebayo Alao Akala and the Oba of Lagos, Rilwanu Akiolu.

In his remarks, President Buhari, who stepped into the Eko Convention Centre, venue of the event at 11: 25 a.m., described Tinubu as a widely known political strategist. “He set himself apart, cares about people, we appreciate his contributions in Nigeria.” Earlier, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo told the audience that he was proud to have garnered experience in public service under the guidance of Tinubu. “It was during that period the foundation of development currently ongoing in Lagos was laid.”

The vice president, who presented a paper titled “Linking the Philosophy To Governance and Commitment”, described Tinubu as a “fighter and a champion of people- oriented courses”.In his welcome address, Governor Ambode, lauded the Tinubu years, remarking that the period spanning 1999 to 2007 exposed the depth of his governance capacity, which has over the years sustained his relevance in the nation’s polity.

The governor recalled that after his years in office, Tinubu “has continued to show pivotal leadership, particularly on the national stage. It is not for nothing that he is acknowledged for his defining role in the emergence of a progressive political party in Nigeria.”In a reaction to the event, the PDP urged Tinubu to stop playing God, adding that Nigerians had the faculty and freedom to determine the leadership that best suit their desires without any body’s control.

The party also advised Tinubu not to allow himself to be used a second time “as he still bears a gross part of the blame for the enthronement of this incompetent, divisive, nepotistic and inherently corrupt administration of President Buhari, which has brought the nation to its knees in three years.”PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement on yesterday, said Tinubu’s speech, at his colloquium, rather than being a damage of the PDP, ended up amplifying an admittance of the failure of Buhari and the APC administration.

The PDP said it “watched with amusement as Tinubu struggled with words to appease President Buhari and give him assurances that he can win a second term election in the face of mass failure both in governance and in their discredited, rejected and troubled platform.“It was a direct admittance of failure and indictment on President Buhari’s administration, when Tinubu pointedly told the president that the ship of the nation, under his (Buhari’s) watch, still needs to be rescued, almost three years down the line.“It is tragic that Tinubu had to tutor his visitor, who had no policy direction since his election in 2015, by engaging in a revision of the programmes and policies of the PDP, such as the leasing system, the mortgage and pension schemes which boosted the economy and directly impacted on the lives of Nigerians.”


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