Security tightened, Abuja hotels, airlines packed out ahead of May 29
Ahead of the May 29 inauguration of a new administration in Nigeria, the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, has been agog with activities, with transit areas unusually busy and security tighter than before.
The week-long programme has seen the runway of the Abuja airport crowded with inbound flights from states across Nigeria, as well as other countries.
Dignitaries from the United States, United Kingdom, Liberia, India, China, Sierra Leone, among other countries are expected to attend the ceremony.
Convoys of vehicles conveying dignitaries are not new to the nation’s capital, but these have doubled in the last five days.
More checkpoints have also been mounted around the Eagle Square, venue of the expected inauguration, as well as along the airport road. There has also been a significant reduction in the number of motorcycle operators on the highway.
The Umaru Yar’Adua gateway into the city has been adorned with images of the president-elect, Bola Tinubu and his vice president-elect, Kashim Shettima.
Road signages have been redesigned, while kerbs and major demarcation walls are being repainted to add beauty to Abuja.
The Federal Government has also informed citizens within the FCT that it will shut down areas around the federal secretariat, Abuja, from 2pm on Friday and will not be reopened until Tuesday morning. Commuters have been directed to use alternative routes to ease traffic as dignitaries are being expected from several countries to grace the occasion.
BusinessDay observed increased traffic, especially inflow of passengers at the arrival wing of the Nnamdi Azikwe Airport as well as increase in fares from the airport.
A taxi driver, who identified himself as John, said it has been a busy week since Monday and it has reflected in his earnings so far.
“The number of passengers arriving Abuja has really increased since Monday. I do not know if it is because of the inauguration anyway but it is a good thing for us, we are making more money from the increased passengers,” he said.
Also, Yusuf, an Uber driver said he decided to work on the airport route this week because he suspected that there will be more passengers.
“So, I pick passengers from and to the airport. That is what I have been doing since Monday and the rush is actually high,” he said.
BusinessDay’s check showed that some of the big hotels in Abuja are fully booked and are now refusing further bookings
“We are fully booked, and we are rejecting new bookings until further notice. However, priority is being given to our regular clients”, a top management staff of an Abuja Hotel told BusinessDay.
A senior official of another hotel said their rooms were being assigned by the proprietor himself as they are fully booked.
Checks on online booking sites of many hotels in the nation’s capital revealed no more rooms available.
Also, online flight bookings showed that flights from most parts of the country to Abuja were fully booked. This includes Lagos – Abuja; Enugu-Abuja; Calabar- Abuja; Uyo- Abuja; Maiduguri- Abuja; Yola-Abuja among others.
The Eagle Square, where the inauguration ceremony will be held, is currently under lock and key. In the last few days, security officers were seen rehearsing for the inauguration parade.
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The military and other security agencies had assured Nigerians repeatedly that the ceremony will go smoothly; adding that any plans to disrupt the process will be dealt with decisively.
On Thursday, the Department of State Service (DSS) warned the citizens against unruly behaviours and non-adherence to protocol during the swearing-in ceremony, admonishing strict compliance to security measures for seamless activities.
Princess Kelechi, a resident in the Bwari community told this reporter in a telephone interview, that stop-and-search into that main city has been tightened.
“The soldiers are now more serious with the stop-and-search at the checkpoint, but other than that, everyone is going about their activities, things are normal,” she said.