24 April 2019

Nigeria: Anxiety As Lagos Shuts Down for Buhari's Visit

Traffic jam, the feared menace on Lagos roads, may be at its height today after the respite of the Easter holiday. President Muhammadu Buhari's one-day official visit today to commission some projects in Africa's fifth largest economy is a call to a complete lockdown.

Already, the Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy has appealed to motorists to bear with the government as some roads will be closed to ensure a hitch-free presidential visit.

"The visit will hold between 9:00a.m. and 3:00p.m. on Wednesday, during which traffic on some routes will be diverted in order to ensure free movement of vehicles and persons," it said.

According to the ministry, the projects to be commissioned are the rehabilitated 10-lane Oshodi/Murtala Muhammed International Airport Road; 170-Bed 'Ayinke House' (Maternity Hospital) at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) in Ikeja; Lagos State Theatre at Oregun in Ikeja; new 820 mass transit buses; and the multi-level Oshodi transport interchange.

Shortly after the announcement of the president's visit, a traffic advisory was released by the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), listing the affected routes in the artery of the state capital.

The routes to be affected include the Mobolaji Bank-Anthony Way (coming from the presidential wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport to LASUTH under bridge); Kodesoh Road; Obafemi Awolowo Way; Kudirat Abiola Way and Ikorodu Road (between the Ojota Intersection and Anthony Interchange).

Other routes are the Oworonshoki-Apapa Expressway (between Anthony and Oshodi Transport Interchange) and the international airport road, through the local wing of the airport to Mobolaji Bank-Anthony Way and back to the Obafemi Awolowo Way.

"Roads highlighted above shall only be cordoned off when necessary. The Obafemi Awolowo Way and portions of the Mobolaji Bank-Anthony shall be closed to traffic on three occasions within the specified period, as they are central to the president's itinerary," the statement said, advising motorists to avoid the above-listed roads where necessary and make use of alternative routes of their choice.

It further advised that where motorists find it unavoidable to ply the afore-mentioned roads, patience and cooperation with traffic managers should be their watchwords.

On a working day, the travel advisory is bad news to most motorists and other road users, who may be stranded during the president's visiting hours or held up in gridlock long after the visit due to congestion on the alternative routes.

Sonala Olumhense, a celebrated columnist, wondered why the president couldn't be airlifted on a chopper to some of the locations, thereby minimizing the inconvenience and injury which Lagosians and the economy will suffer.

Another commentator, Joseph Olabode, expressed worry about the state of the facilities slated for commissioning by the president.

"The last time the president was here on a state visit, he commissioned the uncompleted Ikeja bus terminal, which is still unfinished and not in use one year after. It is the same this time around. The Airport Road is incomplete. The Oshodi transport interchange is not halfway ready, and there are still tonnes of work to be done at the Lagos Theater, Oregun."

Emeka Ugochukwu, a trader in the Apapa axis of the state, won't mind if the president visits the Apapa ports at intervals.

"The ordeal motorists go through plying the Oshodi-Apapa expressway due to the tanker drivers' menace has defied all solutions so far. Apapa needs the kind of magic that occurred when the president came to campaign at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Surulere in February this year. Like a dream, all the tankers disappeared on Ikorodu Road, Western Avenue and Costain bridge two days before the visit, but only for them to return a day after."

Analysts at Proshare Nigeria estimated that the public holiday declared by the Lagos State government on March 29, 2018 for Buhari's visit cost the state N1.28 billion revenue. The analysts said that while it was difficult to assess the impact of the public holiday on Gross Domestic Product (GDP), given that it was observed by only the state's civil servants, "the sudden nature of the holiday and the linkages between the public and private sector shocked productivity regarding mobility of labour across the state.

"Expectedly, sections of the informal sector, especially trade, experienced a seizure in act; and from estimates available to us, the public holiday cost N1.28 billion of Lagos State revenue, just as the government's closure of major routes for the visit resulted in the shutdown of business activities in major parts of Ikeja, the state capital."

Between the early hours of the day and afternoon, the popular Information Technology (IT) market also known as Computer Village in the heart of Ikeja was closed as security personnel blocked access to roads and streets in the area.

Ojikutu Adeniyi, the president of the Computer and Allied Products Dealers Association of Nigeria (CAPDAN), said the market contributes an estimated N1.5 billion to the nation's economy daily.

"Computer Village provides the highest number of ICT solutions in Nigeria in particular and Africa at large. The market, also known as the hardware capital of Africa, employs the highest number of graduates in any market in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. Activities at the Computer Village go beyond selling of mobile devices, it is a hub of technical activities."

It is not going to be different today as the itinerary of the president and the traffic routes marked out for closure shall impact business activities in the Computer Village . It means another N1.28 billion or even more daily contribution of the village to Lagos State GDP will be lost to President Buhari's visit today.

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