Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja and Chinelo Obogo
Following complaints from South East governors and Igbo leaders, President Muhammadu Buhari has approved N10 billion for the take-off of the expansion and rehabilitation work in Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu.
He said he had been assured by the minister of aviation, Hadi Sirika that the project would be expeditiously executed.
“I have approved the sum of N10 billion for an intervention fund for the upgrade of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu. I have the assurance of the minister of Aviation that the work will be done speedily and to the highest standards.
“Even as we have many items competing for our limited resources, we will continue to prioritise infrastructure investments in every part of the country. It is our responsibility to ensure Nigeria’s infrastructure is fixed. We will keep doing this,” Buhari said after a closed-door meeting in the State House, Abuja.
The governors and leaders of the enjoined the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on South East roads and erosion.
Briefing State House Correspondents at the end of the meeting, Chairman of the South-east Governors’ Forum and governor of Ebonyi State, Chief David Umahi, noted that there was a disconnect between the region and infrastructure, citing the deplorable state of roads in the zone.
He added that the delegation drew the attention of the president to the deplorable state of South-East roads as well as the plights of the people of the region, which he said had been worsened by the closure of Enugu airport.
Umahi said the situation needed immediate intervention in view of the industrious nature of the people of the South-east who he said had to move from one place to the other as traders and businessmen.
He also said Aviation minister told the meeting that initial impediment against the take-off of the expansion work in the airport had been addressed, hence, the project would take off without any further delay.
According to Umahi, the necessity to start and complete the Enugu Airport project had become compelling because “what Kaduna is to the North is what Enugu is to the South-East. The good takeaways from the meeting is that we are happy because Enugu Airport will be alive again. We are happy with the hardworking Aviation Minister,” Umahi said.
The governor of Ebonyi also said the attention of the president was drawn to the state of Sam Mbakwe Airport in Owerri, stating that there was a need to expand the runway and simultaneously carry out an extensive work on the tarmac.
But the Chief Executive Officer of Centurion Aviation Security and Safety Consult, Captain John Ojikutu, told Daily Sun yesterday that it was impossible for good quality work to be completed by December.
He said the amount approved by the president is neither too little nor too much but will be sufficient in carrying out the most important repairs.
“For the level of work required on the runway, I think that amount is not too little nor too much for strengthening the runway surface; extending the runway; constructing the taxiways; recovering land to save the runway from possible erosion from the Ekulu River and for the reinstallation of the runway lightings. That amount of job would take up to February, March or beyond,” he said.