As the #EndSARS protests bite harder, businesses and the government in Lagos have lost over N770 billion, relevant authorities said on Tuesday.
The grounding of activities at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMA), the blockage of major routes leading to various seaports, the partial closure of some markets and big malls as well as the closure of schools and other places that offer essential services is taking a toll on Lagos, the business hub of Nigeria.
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Findings revealed that small business owners in Lagos who survive on daily earnings are beginning to vent their frustration over their inability to access their business locations owing to road blockage by the protesters.
The major entering route, the Lagos Ibadan expressway was practically inaccessible for the better part of last week. Same goes for the Ikorodu Expressway from where a sizable number of the workforce on the Mainland and Island commutes daily.
Even for those who live within Ikeja, movement has become impossible because they have been trapped.
The Lekki-Ajah axis is not different, as the toll gate leading to that axis has been occupied by the protesters, who have made it impossible for workers to get to their offices from the Lekki, Ajah and beyond.
Mohammed Isa, a small business owner, said: “Peaceful protest is an ingredient of democracy. Blocking roads, disrupting innocent peoples’ businesses and causing unnecessary hardship on other Nigerians is unacceptable. Find an isolated place and protest to your heart content or target the presidential villa, National Assembly, and places of the elite.”
Reports have it that the Lagos State Government had so far lost at least N234 million to the closure of toll gates since the #EndSARS protests started.
“Nigeria’s economy loses N700 bn”
The Nigerian economy has suffered an estimated ₦700 billion loss in the past twelve days of #EndSARS protest, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), has said.
President of the Chamber, Mrs Toki Mabogunje, who expressed concern over the negative impact that the protracted nature of the #EndSARS protests have on business activities across the country, lamented that economic activities have been crippled in most parts of the country and have been particularly profound in the urban areas in the past 12 days.
“The protest has achieved some significant outcomes given the reawakening that it has generated in reforming the shortcomings in our political governance and the fact that some of the demands of the protesters have been met,” she said.
She stressed that it was necessary to reduce the massive disruptions, blockades and barricades around the major cities and interstate highways.
“These actions have been at great cost to the economy and the welfare of Nigerian citizens. It should be noted that our economy is still reeling from the shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic and struggling to recover from its devastating effects.
“It is important to avoid a situation where even more hardship is inflicted on the very citizens that the protesters are seeking to protect,” she noted.
She called on President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently grant audience to the leadership of the #EndSARS to deliberate on the way forward and to agree on an action plan for the delivery of agreed outcomes.
She also urged the leadership of the #ENDSARS to participate in the reforms to be implemented by the government in response to their demands.
Airlines cancel Lagos flights over curfew
Following the 24-hour curfew imposed on Lagos, all flights in and out of Lagos have been obstructed as local and international airlines have announced cancellation of flights to the nation’s busiest airport.
It was gathered that some airlines may reroute their flights to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
Since Monday, protesters have taken over the road leading to the MMA domestic terminal one.
It was learnt on Tuesday evening that Delta, Africa World Airlines (AWA) and Kenya Airways were among those that cancelled their flights.
Also, Azman, Arik and other local airlines announced cancellation of flights to Lagos.
“We regret to inform you that KQ533 scheduled to depart 21/Oct/2020 from LOS-NBO has been cancelled, due to the 24hrs curfew imposed by the Lagos State Government,” said Kenya Airways.
“We would send out another communication with regards to flight operations for the affected guests as soon as we have an update,” it said.
Arik Air through its spokesman, Ola Adebanji, also announced cancellation of its planned Wednesday’s flights, saying, “All booked passengers on the cancelled flights are advised to reschedule their flights for later dates at no extra cost.”
Azman Air via its Twitter handle said: “This is to inform all our Lagos bound passengers that all flights are hereby cancelled till further notice.”
An aviation analyst, Mr Tayo Ojuri, told Daily Trust that the current nationwide protests would further hurt the industry as it is yet to recover from the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is going to reduce the load factor and airport traffic a great deal,” he said, adding, “Those that need to travel for business, it is going to significantly impact on passenger travel and affect the financial standing of airlines.”
Also on Tuesday, commercial activities were brought to a halt at the nation’s oldest Seaports in Apapa, as freight forwarders, agents as well as truck drivers joined the #EndSARS protest.
The protesters besieged the Apapa and Tin Can Island Ports on Monday and Tuesday shutting down all commercial activities at the ever-busy ports.
In Apapa, the protesters train marched from Airways, through Randle Road, to Warehouse Road and Burma Road before converging in front of the entrance into Apapa Port.
At the Lagos Port Complex Apapa, the protesters blocked the entrance to the port, disrupting movement of vehicles into and out of the port.
While at Tin-Can Island port, the freight forwarders gathered themselves in numbers within the Customs Processing Centre (CPC) singing.
Some of the placards carried by the protesters read: “End FOU Extortion,” “Maritime Police Blocking our containers, #EndStrikeforce, #EndCustoms Intimidation #End Shipping companies Intimidation among others.
Business owners forced to remain at home
Meanwhile, many businesses in Lagos had to shut their businesses due to the 24-hour curfew imposed by the state government. One of such businesses is the Justrite and Jendol shopping malls both located along Isolo Ikotun road.
Some filling stations along the road also shut their businesses in the early hours of Tuesday due to the protest.
A Managing Partner at Matthew OGAGAVWORIA & Co. (Chartered Accountants) said, “No matter how we quantify the naira loss, it is still better than the loss of life.
“The question really is, what is the alternative? I have been stationary inside traffic for 7 hours but I will take the pain for a better tomorrow because #ENDSARS has become a metaphor for demanding reforms in our economic and social life,” he said.
In Ogun State, the Chairman of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN) in Ota District, Adeola Agbogunleri, said the protest has “already grounded the economy of Nigeria.”
According to him, the protest has affected both governments and individuals’ economic activities and requires urgent attention as the whole world is watching Nigeria.
“In terms of economic implications, the whole economy is grounded as we speak. This is because whatever affects Lagos State and South West, affects the whole nation,” Agbogunleri added.
President, Abeokuta Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (ABEOCCIMA), Jare Oyesola on Tuesday expressed fears that the ongoing #EndSARS protest could worsen the nation’s economy.
This, he said, is in view of the fact that the nation is just recovering from economic effects of the coronavirus.
In Oyo state, an Economist and a lecturer at the Department of Economic, University of Ibadan, Dr. Tosin Adeniyi identified two negative implications of the ongoing protest may have on the economy in the state.
He said the ongoing protest could affect small scale businesses in the state and the government may need to spend taxpayers’ money on unnecessary things.