By Uche Amunike
The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), defied the early morning heavy rain, Monday and carried out their threat to ground activities at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos as they blocked access roads to both the international and domestic terminals of the airport, making it frustrating for travelers and users of the Lagos Airport Road, as a result of their anger at the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), which has lasted for seven months running.
As early as 8am, Monday, the protesting students had blocked the Lagos Airport road and went ahead to stop passengers at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Toll Gate Plaza from gaining access to the airport to board their flights.
Shortly after, they headed to the domestic airport where they caused a standstill situation along the Mobolaji Bank Anthony Way, which leads to the airport.
They caused a chaotic situation at both the General Aviation Terminal and Terminal 2, by grinding activities at a halt when they prevented passengers from having access to the airport. Their placards had different inscriptions like ‘Our Education is More Important Than Your Election’; ‘Education is a Right,Open Our Schools’; ‘If You Have Money For Election Form, You Can Fund Education’; ‘No Nation Can Develop Without Genuine Commitment to Education’ and several others.
Blocking the access roads made it impossible for passengers to make it to the airport, as the blockage caused a major traffic gridlock around Ikeja environs, thereby causing a reschedule of most flights by airlines as both motorists and commuters were stranded.
Because of the gridlock along the Lagos Airport road, these commuters and air travelers were left with no choice than to trek the long distance with most of them carrying their luggage on their heads, some others paid through their nose to touts who charged them outrageous amounts to help them carry their luggage to the airport.
The protest also affected the immediate past President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Olumide Akpata who had to walk all the way to the Hajj Camp where his driver was parked. Speaking to newsmen, Akpata stated that he would have done the same thing if he was still a student. Hear him: ‘I was a student in this country. If I had sat at home for close to a year for whatever reason, I would be on the street.’
Even though there was a heavy presence of security operatives at the protest ground, it was very peaceful and there was no form of violence. There was a mild drama when the military men eventually met with the he protesters , telling them to round off their protest. The students refused and insisted on barricading the road for eight hours as they planned. The security operatives reminded them that they had exceeded the time they were meant to barricade the road, by they were unrelenting.
The Deputy Commissioner of Policein charge of the airport, Kayode Sunday stated thus: ‘We had an agreement that they were going to leave the road by 2 pm, and they have exceeded the time. This is an international corridor. We are managing the situation and I believe they are going to vacate this place anytime from now.’
The NANS Deputy Senate President, Elvis Ekundina, commended the conduct of the security operatives and implied: ‘Security agencies complied and I can say it’s the best I have ever witnessed. NPF and Nigerian Army all did well and were in solidarity with us.’
The protesting students made it clear that their next port of call would be the Apapa Seaport, Tuesday if the Nigerian government refuses to do the right thing.