Motorists plying the Umaru Yar’Adua expressway leading to and from the city centre to the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport in Abuja often experience incessant hardship whenever President Muhammadu Buhari travels out of or returns to the capital city.
On every occasion that Mr. Buhari travels, the 10-lane expressway is often closed for prolonged periods before the President’s convoy eventually comes along.
During those periods, motorists trying to access the road or those already on it are made to halt their journeys.
PREMIUM TIMES reports that on Wednesday morning, as Mr. Buhari travelled to Cameroun on a state visit as part of regional efforts to combat the Boko Haram sect, the traffic situation caused by the presidential movement was terrible and heart wrenching for residents and motorists.
A motorist who resides at the Federal Housing Estate in Lugbe, Oluyinka Akintunde, told PREMIUM TIMES that he set out for work at some minutes after 8 a.m. but was forced to stop, alongside hundreds of other motorists, because the road was closed to traffic.
“The entire stretch of the road from the Federal Secretariat to the Airport, a distance of over 40 kilometres, was closed and we had to stop there until about 9:10 a.m. when the president’s convoy eventually passed,” he said.
Mr. Oluyinka also recalled that his wife experienced the same scenario last week.
“My wife was going to the Church very early last week, but she could not enter the expressway because it had already been closed,” he said.
Mr. Buhari had shortly after his election as President, and before he was sworn in, directed his aides to always respect traffic light.
His convoy was seen obeying traffic light on occasions when he shuttled between the Defence House and his office in Wuse 2 and other destinations.
Mr. Oluyinka said although it is normal practice for a president not to share the road with other road users, he blames the security agents who he said “appear as if they take delight in blocking the road even when the president was clearly not ready to start moving”.
“I am not sure the President is aware we are suffering like this under this reign,” he said.
Another Abuja resident, Maikudi Shuaib, recently narrated to this reporter how he missed the Eid El-Fitr prayer some days back due to road closure by security agents.
“We were on the road quite ahead of time, but we saw some soldiers and police officers along the Bolingo Junction blocking the road. All our pleas to let us pass as we were heading to the Eid fell on deaf ears.
“They said the road has been closed for presidential movement. I happily saw the President pass in a modest convoy, but I missed my prayer,” he said.
The current situation concerning Mr. Buhari’s movement appears to be business as usual in terms of the traffic gridlock presidential convoys cause during departure to or arrival from a travel destination.
PREMIUM TIMES had earlier this year reported how trips by former President Goodluck Jonathan exposed Abuja residents to insecurity.
In that report, which detailed Mr. Jonathan’s travel out of Abuja for campaigns on a Saturday, over 200 police officers and about a hundred soldiers were withdrawn from their beats around the nation’s capital and made to line the route to the Abuja Airport four hours before the then President left his home at the Presidential villa.
Some of the police officers were seen standing with their rifles on their shoulders, some sitting on pavements, stones and bare ground while others snored away in patrol cars.
This time around, although there is high security presence along the airport road whenever Mr. Buhari travels the withdrawal of security agents from the city centre does not appear to be as high as it was during President Jonathan’s reign.