Some travellers and commuters were on Thursday, forced to walk long distances to the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos to catch their flights, following restriction of movement around the airport vicinity by security operatives.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the movement restriction around the airport is due to the visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to Lagos.
The president is expected to inaugurate the newly constructed Ikeja Bus Terminus among other engagements.
NAN reports that as early as 5 a.m, commercial buses and other unauthorised vehicles were restricted from plying the Agege Motor Road, Airport Road, Mobolaji Bank-Anthony Way and other link roads.
Activities of shuttle buses and taxis within the airport were also restricted, forcing commuters and travelers going to the airport, to walk long distances to their destinations.
NAN observes that the situation had also affected flight operations by domestic airlines, which had to delay their 7 a.m flights for about an hour to enable stranded passengers catch up with fights.
Air Peace, in a statement posted on its Facebook page empathised with its guests over the situation.
“We empathise with our esteemed guests who are having a challenge accessing the airport to catch their flights due to the diversion of traffic at various points In Lagos.
“This is currently affecting flights out of our base in Lagos despite the availability and readiness of our crew to operate their flights.
“We urge our valued guests to remain calm, while we monitor the development and take steps to minimise the impact of the resulting flight disruptions,’’ the airline said.
Similarly, Arik Air, in continuous public announcements, appealed to passengers already checked in on its 8 a.m Lagos-Port Harcourt flight to exercise patience with other passengers yet to arrive due to the movement restriction.
However, Henrietta Yakubu, the General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), explained that the restriction on commercial vehicles was to allow smooth movement during the president’s visit.
An aviation expert and a member of the Aviation Round Table, Retired Capt. John Ojikutu , faulted the early closure of the access way to the airport which caused discomfort to travelers.
“Knowing that most flights outbound Lagos are between 7 a.m/7.30 a.m, the closure of the airport that is built within urban developed area like MMA should not have come before 7.30 a.m.
“Access control for vehicular movement should have been limited not beyond the roundabout near the Forte Oil and the roundabout near the Bisam Police Station.
“The experience of passengers into the airport today should not be on the president as most people would want.
“Rather, on the state government and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) mainly and FAAN which could have jointly assess the impact of the visit to the airport on the public,’’ he said.
Two travelers, Ejike Agu and Augustine Iweh, told NAN that advanced notices should have been sent to travelers to enable them prepare for the inconveniences caused by the restriction.
Agu said “some of us are going home for the Easter holidays and it is not good that we are treated this way. It took me hours to get to the airport as I had to trek from Mobolaji Bank Anthony Way.”
Iweh said he was lucky to get a cab driver who was able to navigate his way to the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) of the airport in spite of the restriction.
“But it cost me N5, 000; At least, I got here without too much stress unlike some other people,’’ he said.
NAN observes that a number of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority personnel, the Nigeria Air Force, Police and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, have been deployed around the airport to beef up security ahead of the president’s visit.