PRESIDENTIAL security is priority everywhere, so it is not out of place for the same rule to apply in Nigeria. We commend decision of President-elect Maj-Gen Muhammadu Buhari that his convoy would obey traffic rules, but many situations would see the presidential convoy roar through the streets without Buhari knowing what colour of traffic light it obeyed.
What we find out of place is the growing acceptance that other lives should be disrupted, so often for the safety of the President, without any measures being taken to accommodate the convenience of the public. There are several angles to these interruptions that appear more visible in Abuja, where the first sign that the President is making a trip is the number of policemen who litter the 40-something kilometre stretch from the Presidential Villa to the airport. They are at every junction, covering every spot that they consider a risk point.
Finally, the road is sealed off until the presidential fleet rumbles through to the airport. It takes another half hour for the impact of the disruption to disappear. More parts of Abuja than the expressway to the airport are affected, as any traffic heading to the expressway is stopped until the President passes. The congestion gets into the city, creating avoidable traffic nightmares.
Abuja’s other security measures which have seen roads cordoned off in some parts and constructions, add to the traffic miasma that is becoming a hallmark of the city. Like in most things, those who lock
up the city for the President do not consider the interests of other road users, some of who also have flights to catch at the airport, and who unlike the President, do not have their private jets waiting for them.
These disruptions also occur in the air. Flights are either delayed from taking off or asked to hover, when they are close to an airport the President is about to use. Consideration for people who need to make appointments or the extra cost of the fuel the airlines burn and their disrupted schedules is nil.
We appreciate the importance of the attention paid to presidential security, more so with current security challenges, which do not explain some of the ancient methods of protecting the President. Is lining up hundreds of policemen on Abuja airport route, the optimal security plan to get the President to the airport?
Helicopters can ferry the President to the airport. Could that not be safer, possibly faster and cheaper? Would that also not stop frequent disruption of activities in Abuja? The President’s safety is important. The lives of those who his movements interrupt are important too. We need a balance.
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