- Says Abuja Airport runway is being totally recontructed
By Iyobosa Uwugiaren in Abuja
Nigerians need not worry about the health of President Muhammadu Buhari because he is fit and healthy, Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, told Arise TV yesterday in Abuja when he appeared on the global television network’s programme, Thisday Live from Abuja.
‘’Last Sunday, the president stood for one hour; and if he is not fit he would have collapsed. I do not think we should discuss president’s medical history. What are we worrying about? I will soon go for 10 days’ vacation, in which I will go for medical check-up. The rumour about his death or he is alive, is all nonsense,’’ he said.
News of purported death of the president had gone viral in rumour circles on Friday, forcing the president’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu to deny the speculation on his Twitter handle.
The president is on a 10-day vacation in London, during which he plans to undergo routine medical check-up, according to his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina.
Amaechi also spoke on other sundry issues, including the impending closure of the Nnamidi Azikiwe International Airport and Buhari’s plan to redevelop the Niger Delta.
He said the airport had to be closed because its runway was being rebuilt entirely.
The minister said: ‘’I do not know whether we have done enough enlightenment to let the public know what the situation is. The first problem is that we are not rehabilitating the runway; we are rebuilding a completely damaged runway.
‘’The airport was built to last for 20 years, but it lasted for 24 years. If it is rehabilitation, it will just last for about three days; but it has gone beyond that. We should ask the past government why the airport was allowed to deteriorate to this level.
‘’There was a time under former President Umaru Yar’Adua that the federal government wanted to build the second runway, but the National Assembly removed it from the budget. If we had done the second runway, we would not have closed the airport while we rebuild the first one. We need 24 hours for six weeks to reconstruct the runway. We will make sure it does not go beyond those six weeks.’’
On the inadequate facilities at the alternative airport, the Kaduna Airport, Amaechi assured Nigerians that everything will be fixed before March.
‘’Abuja/Kaduna Road will be reconstructed; we are buying more coaches for the railway; anybody who does not want to use the road can use the railway. A lot of agencies are involved’’, he said.
Amaechi told Arise TV that while the Buhari administration was committed to the development of the Niger Delta, it would not do so by sharing money to its political elites as it was done in the past.
Rather, he said, the president would invest hugely in the region’s infrastructure development and human capacity building.
‘’The conversation on Niger Delta is on-going; recently Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo was in Niger Delta to continue with the dialogue. And President Buhari is committed to resolving the issues,’’ the minister said.
He added: ‘’But, unlike in the past, where the political elite were interfacing with the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the Presidential Amnesty Office and sharing money met for the development of the region, we will invest in infrastructure development and capacity building in the area.’’
Amaechi also gave reason for the present economic recession in the country, saying it was largely caused by the corruption of the past government.
‘’We are in recession because when former president Olusegun Obasanjo was leaving office, he left $68 billion in foreign reserve. What happened to the $68 billion? Don’t forget we were in recession in 2009; we have forgotten that the then President Yar’Adua had to go to excess crude account to take a billion dollars every month to fund the economy,’’ Amaechi claimed.
He explained: “By the time Yar’Adua died, about $48 billion was left in the excess crude account. They said the Governors’ Forum said they should share the money; fine. They should also ask why the governors said they should share the money.
‘’At that time we used to hold monthly economic council meeting. The constitution says there must be at least one economic council meeting every month. Under the watch of former President Goodluck Jonathan, they stopped the meeting.
‘’Do you know why they stopped it? Because any time we come for the meeting, $48 billion will come down to $47 billion and when we ask, they will tell us the President said they should use it.’’
He added that the excess crude account belongs to the three tiers of government, saying the federal government does not have the right to spend that money without taking into account the feeling of the states and local governments.
‘’At that point I became the chairman of the Governors Forum and when we looked at the way the money was going, we said we should share the money. We shared only $10 billion. But by the time Buhari took over, what was handed over was $2.5 billion from the excess crude account’’, he added.
He said the federal government is doing everything to fight corruption using the relevant anti-corruption agencies by following the due process.
Meanwhile, former Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Tony Anenih, has condemned the instigators of media reports that the health condition of President Muhammadu Buhari might have worsened, leading to possible death in Germany.
Some Nigerians in the United Kingdom, under the banner of the UK chapter of Nigerians in Diaspora Monitoring Group (NDMG), also expressed their displeasure at the rumour of the death of the president, saying the purveyors did not mean well for Nigeria.
Anenih, who reacted to the wide rumour yesterday in Abuja, dismissed the report as the handiwork of those who only didn’t wish Buhari well but also didn’t mean well for Nigeria.
The elder statesman said those behind the report, in their hurried bid to propagate their ‘’mischievous and false report’’, forgot that the president left Nigeria for London and not Germany on vacation during which period he would undergo routine medical check-up.
“This attitude of doing false reports about the death of our leaders have become characteristic in the media and it is not good. I was a victim of this in May last year when I was reported to have died in a London hospital,’’ Anenih said.
He recalled that former President Ibrahim Babangida was also said to have died last year and wondered what those behind the false and mischievous reports intended to gain from them.
“Fabricating such negative and false reports of death about fellow human beings is wicked and ungodly. It is clearly against Biblical admonition that we should pray for leaders and people in authority,’’ the former PDP chieftain said.
He said at this time of economic recession, rather than wish Buhari dead, Nigerians should fervently pray for him to enjoy good health to be able to take the country out of the woods.
Advising the masterminds of the false reports to desist from such despicable act that only portrays them as inhuman, Anenih urged those behind the reports to fear God, ask for His mercy and forgiveness so that they do not invite the wrath of God upon their heads.
He advised the media, especially operators of online media platforms, to always verify sensitive reports before they publish, saying that by doing so, they would save their news subjects and themselves unnecessary embarrassment.
Also at the weekend Nigerians living in the United Kingdom (UK) condemned the rumour, which they claimed was spread by corrupt and unpatriotic Nigerians who did not mean well for the nation.
Speaking under the banner of the UK chapter of Nigerians in Diaspora Monitoring Group (NDMG), the Co-coordinator, Mr. Adekaa Onyilo, in an electronic message to journalist said: “Those behind the rumour do not mean well for Nigeria as a country that is trying to overcome long years of strangulation imposed by their benefactors.”
Onyilo observed that such rumour reveals the depth to which morals have sunken and the desperation of the beneficiaries of corruption, who according to him, wanted an end to the current war on corruption so that they could again return the country to the path of perfidy.
He said the group was pleased at the promptness with which the Presidency dispelled the evil rumours around the health of the president, who is currently on a medical in the United Kingdom.
“The irresponsible news could only have been floated by those that want to see Nigeria go up in flames. Unfortunately, they failed to realize that the change and reforms initiated by Mr. President would outlive everyone since they are targeted at strengthening institutions and building systems,” he said.
Onyilo said: “We therefore want to warn the purveyors of such rumours to desist from spreading them as their act affect more than President Buhari. At a time when our dear country is working to contain the pressure on the naira, their action has served to further spook the currency and shake investors’ confidence. When this happens, citizens that played no role in starting the lies would suffer for it.” said.