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Men of the Lagos State Police Command, Lagos Airport Police Command and students, under the aegis of the National Association of Nigerian Students, may be set for a showdown over the students’ plan to ground the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos on Monday (today).
The students’ planned mass action is in continuation of their protest against the ongoing industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities.
While the students told The PUNCH on Sunday that they will commence the grounding of the nation’s airports with that of Lagos on Monday (today), police authorities said the students “are free to come out and see what awaits them.”
NANs National Taskforce Chairman, Olumide Ojo, told one of our correspondents that the association was aware of the Federal Government’s plan to mobilise the military against its protest.
He said the move would, however, not stop the association’s protest at the Lagos airport.
Ojo said, “We can secure ourselves against external forces. We are aware that the Federal Government is mobilising the military to the venue of our protest but that will not stop us from barricading the airport.
“Since last Tuesday, we have been grounding the major highways from Lagos-Ibadan Expressway to Guru Maharaji, we blocked Gbongan and so on. These are the roads being used by the masses, so we decided to focus on the routes government officials use most, which are the international airports and others.
“Nigerians should reschedule their flights because tomorrow (today) will be grounded. No one will go out, no one will come in.”
NANS Coordinator, Zone D, Adegboye Olatunji also confirmed the development in a separate interview.
He noted that the Lagos airport would be the first among the airports to be grounded by the students.
“The Lagos airport will be grounded on Monday (today). All we want is for the government to answer us. We want an end to the strike
Police dismiss threat
Meanwhile, the Lagos State Police Command dismissed the threat by the student body to ground operations at the Lagos airport and urged citizens to go about their lawful duties.
The command’s spokesperson, Benjamin Hundeyin said, “Speaking from a position of confidence, everything is intact, and there is no threat on the airport or the airspace.
“However, the protesters who issued the threat are free to come out and see what awaits them. We, however, urge law-abiding Lagosians to go about their lawful duties without fear of intimidation or harassment.”
The airport police command’s spokes person, Olayinka Ojelade, also said, “Our men have been on standby since Friday, so nobody is folding arms to watch the students disrupt aviation activities.
“They can’t enter the airport; they can only block the entrance to the airport. Whoever is travelling will know how to bypass them and enter the airport. No airline is on strike, so, they will attend to their passengers. Nobody can ground flight operations, they have been warned.”
FAAN allays fear
The spokesperson for the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, Hope Ivbaze noted that security had been beefed up at the airport because the airport is the nation’s gateway.
She said, “You won’t expect that this kind of information will go around and security will not be beefed up.
“The airport is the nation’s gateway. Certainly, we have existing security operatives at the airport and when there are things like this, security is further beefed up.’’
ASUU backs NANS
The National President, ASUU, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, in an interview with The PUNCH, however, commended the students for fighting for their rights.
“We commend NANS members for fighting for their rights. It is their right. The pro-chancellors are doing well too. We hope the government will listen to them because they (pro-chancellors) understand what is happening in the Nigerian universities,” he said.
Osodeke also informed The PUNCH that it would honour the invitation of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila to a meeting on Tuesday.
Group warns students
Meanwhile, the Muslim Media Watch Group of Nigeria has appealed to the leadership of NANS to rescind its decision to occupy the nation’s airports.
The group made the appeal in a statement jointly signed by its National Coordinator, Ibrahim Abdullahi and National Secretary, Dr Nasir Balogun, which was made available to journalists on Sunday.
The group warned that street protests leading to blockage of federal highways, access to airports and disruption of flights would lead to a breakdown of law and order.
The union, on February 14, 2022, embarked on a strike following what it described as the failure of the government to meet some of its demands and on August 26, it declared a total and indefinite strike.