Buhari’s Lagos visit triggers criticisms from Catholic Archbishop, residents over city’s shutdown

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President Muhammadu Buhari’s two-day visit to Lagos state has attracted him and the state governor, Akinwunmi Ambode flacks over the virtual shutdown of the nation’s economic nerve centre as a result of the visit, and the attendant hardship it has caused residents.

Although the state government had declared Thursday a public holiday for a hitch-free presidential visit, thousands of residents of the state were found stranded as they could not get buses to convey them to their various destinations.

A lot of Lagosians trekked several kilometers in order to get to where they needed to be. Some others complained severely about an astronomical increase in transport fare by up to 100 per cent.  At the Alakuko-Tollgate end of the state, fare to Oshodi which ranged between N150 and N250 skyrocketed to N400 as there are very few vehicles plying the route.

For those resorting to commercial tricycle operators, popularly called “Keke Marwa”, the transport fare from Agege to Ikeja was increased from N150 to N300, a 100 per cent increase.

Buhari is in Lagos to among other things chair the 10th Bola Tinubu colloquium in celebration of the APC national leader’s 66th birthday. Also to attend the event holding at the Eko Convention Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos, is Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

The Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev’d Alfred Martins had stated that the visit of Buhari and shutdown of the state by the Governor Ambode-led government was unfortunate, noting that the visit is coming when Christians are supposed to be taking part in Holy Thursday and Good Friday festivities.

In a statement signed by Gabriel Osu, the Archdiocese’ director of social communications, Martins lamented that the President’s visit coincided with the “most important days of the year for Christians when they celebrate the events of the salvation of the world”.

He said Christians will be subjected to “untold hardships” due to the closure of roads and the ban of commercial motorcycles on many routes.

The religious leader said Christians “who would also like to welcome their President have been put in a difficult situation of deciding whether to fulfil their religious obligations or go out to welcome the President.

“The timing does not take into consideration Christians in government and security services who would be required to be at work to ensure a smooth, secure and safe visit of the President.

“It is really unfortunate that the timing of the visit would create such hardships for people and deprive some of their right to worship and take part in the most important feast of their faith”.

The Archbishop argued that although the President reserves the right to visit any part of the country, such trips “should be sensitive to the situation of people especially when it involves the fulfilment of the religious obligations which their faith requires of them”.

He expressed hope that several factors would be put into consideration when planning for similar visits in the future.

“We hope that those who plan such visits that are likely to disrupt the normal flow of the life of people would be sensitive enough especially when they affect the right of people to practice their faith and worship as they choose.

“I hope that the security agencies would be mindful of the fact that people would be going about fulfilling their religious obligations on Thursday and Friday, (the two days that the President would be in Lagos) and therefore not make things unduly difficult for them,” he said.

Meanwhile, Nigerians residing in Lagos whose movement and plans have been affected by the visit of the President took to Twitter to vent their frustration. Below are some of the tweets in response to the visit.

@MrTomide: Today is a terrible day to be a Buhari/APC supporter. my good friend @stalyf challenged anyone to mention JUST ONE project initiated and completed in 3 years of the disastrous Buhari/APC administration and get 20k but NOBODY could rise up to the challenge.

@OlusosuD: If Ambode ever builds a light rail in Lagos, we will just have to leave Lagos for him at the time of commissioning. Because, he will invite Jesus Christ.

@biolakazeem: Lagos is shut down because the  president is in Lagos 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. Folks, Nigeria is finished. We can pack & go home now.

@DemolaRewaju: Agents of the State are mobilising 10 people from each ward in Lagos with a promise of NGN3,000 to come and hail Buhari while the police has caged the NBA Ikeja Branch which wishes to protest against Ambode’s retrogressive policies. Any crowd you see in Lagos today is rented.

@Chxta: Let’s focus. The compulsory exercise that we are participating in in Lagos today isn’t because of the old man. He has not even brushed his teeth this morning. 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 mad.

@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 fan fare. 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 flying out of Lagos for Easter. Yet you block roads leading to the Airport with 24hr notice.

@tolulopeab: Lagos DON’T DO IT. Absolutely avoid VI of you can today. Entering via Bonny Camp thru CMS is a no. You are diverted inside Lagos Island. Many side roads close to Eko hotel are closed. Drove around for 20 minutes trying to get to my office

@4eyedmonk: I really don’t know why Lagos had to shutdown for President Buhari’s visit. He lives here in Abuja and moves around amongst us on a regular basis, and we have never had to shut down the city for one day.

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