Benjamin Nworie in Abakaliki
The South-east Governors’ Forum yesterday urged President Muhammadu Buhari to defer the closure of Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu till the end of October 2019 to enable them to make adequate arrangements for airport users in the zone and also carry out few remedial works at the airport.
In a letter addressed to Buhari, signed by the Chairman of the forum and Ebonyi State Governor, Mr. David Umahi, the governors also asked the president to approve their earlier resolution banning movement of cattle by foot in the zone.
Copies of the letter were distributed to journalists in Abakaliki by Umahi’s spokesman, Mr. Emmanuel Uzor. The governors said their resolution was to eliminate killings, maiming, raping of women, kidnapping of the people and destruction of farmlands mostly carried out by foreign herdsmen with the backing of some compromised local herders.
The governors said they had to write to the president to intervene in what they termed “prompt closure of the Enugu Airport without giving us any time to make adequate security arrangement, convenience of the people and visitors to the zone who would be travelling long distances to alternative airports where flights would be diverted to following the closure.”
The governors called on the president to direct the aviation sector of the Federal Ministry of
Transport to provide immediate palliatives in form of transportation with armed escorts and helicopter services to prospective passengers from alternative airports that connect the zone.
The governors said the Federal Ministry of Works in collaboration with the South-east Governors’ Forum should be directed to carry out palliative repairs on the major roads leading to the alternative airports as well as clear all the bushes along the routes for better view
of road users.
They called for 24-hour joint security patrol for the safety of the people and visitors to the South-east who will be using the roads day and night through the alternative airports.
“The South-east Governors’ Forum highly appreciates Your Excellency Mr. President for granting our request for the immediate resurfacing of the tarmac and extension of the runway of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu for public safety.
“May we use this opportunity to also thank you for the consistent progress of works at the Second Niger Bridge in Onitsha and other federal government projects in the South-east, especially the completion of the Zik’s Mausoleum in Onitsha and 2.8 megawatts solar power plant at the Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu Alike Ikwo in Ebonyi State.
“As we thank you Mr. President, we are constrained to ask for your kind intervention in the observations we have made to the Federal Ministries of Transport (Aviation sector) and Works on the closure of the airport for the renovation works.
“Your Excellency, in our letters to the respective ministries, we observed that the notification of the closure was prompt giving us no time to make adequate arrangement for the security and convenience of our people and visitors to the South-east who will be travelling long distances to alternative airports where flights will be diverted to.“We request that the closure of the airport be deferred to the end of October, 2019 to enable adequate arrangements to be made for security of the airport users and for few remedial works within seven days to be carried out at the tarmac to ensure safety,” the governors said.
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) had earlier notified airlines, passengers and all other stakeholders that it would close the runway at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu for major repairs.
Its decision to close the airport came three months after the immediate past Minister of State, Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said the airport would be closed down over the state of the runway.
Sirika had said the airport would be degraded for international operations because the runway length was not ideal for such operations. But FAAN said the closure was aimed at resolving safety and security concerns to flight operations.
The closure, which would take effect by 12 a.m. on August 24, would be for an indefinite period.