Soni Daniel, Regional Editor, North
*Military aircraft mounts surveillance, as soldiers take over street…
Residents and visitors to Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital were on Thursday subjected to unwarranted restriction and security cordon, as the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, took time off to sing and dance with women drawn from the 36 states of the Federation.
The event, which was held at the Eagles Square, effectively cut off workers from the imposing Federal Secretariat on both Shehu Shagari Way and Ibrahim Babangida Road, forcing them to trek for miles to their offices.
The big event, which took the workers and residents by surprise, also prevented commercial and government drivers from dropping their passengers, mostly workers in their designated bus stops around the secretariat.
Instead, hordes of stern-looking and gut-toting securitymen, who had arrived the venue before dawn, ordered them to stop some 200 metres away from the Square, which is surrounded by the Federal Secretariat.
As vehicular and human traffic was effectively cut off from all the routes leading to the venue of the First Lady’s rally, tagged, “Nigerian Women Rally for Peace and Empowerment”, frustrated motorists were funnelled to any available space, thereby leading to a chaotic traffic snarl for most part of the day.
As a result, all major streets in the Business District of Abuja, were overflowed with long queues of human and vehicular traffic, giving traffic warders a hectic day.
While the traffic chaos lasted, armed soldiers and policemen in battle-ready mood took their positions on strategic road intersections, frisking commuters and pedestrians as if a war was on the offing.
The armed men on the streets were given aerial support by military helicopters, which hovered over the venue of the rally as long as the ceremony lasted, making occasional displays, as they flew past.
Inside the rally venue, Dame Jonathan, backed by Vice President, Namadi Sambo and some ministers and their spouses, relished the show as thousands of women danced and marched past her.
Like the President would do during national events, she smiled and waved at the women groups. Displaying a sense of excitement and satisfaction over the large mobilisation of women and artistes to the venue, which must have cost the nation a fortune at a time the government claims it does not have N92 billion to settle teachers demand, Mrs. Jonathan frequently nodded her head and smiled as the various groups performed.
Women in the various military and paramilitary agencies in the country and women organisations were mobilised to sing, dance and march all for the First Lady, just as groups gave goodwill messages to the President’s wife.
The security lockdown in Abuja, Vanguard learnt, was also necessitated by the suspicion that some insurgents had planned to attack certain places in the country this week.