Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Following the complaints of 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.
He said he has 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,” the President said.
“Even as we have many items competing for our limited resources, we will continue to prioritize 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 stated after a closed-door meeting in the State House, Abuja on Thursday, October 17.
The governors and Igbo leaders enjoined the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on roads and erosion in the South East.
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 is a disconnect between the region and infrastructure, citing the deplorable state of roads in the zone as an illustration.
He added that the delegation drew the attention of the President to the deplorable state of South East roads as well as the plight of the people of the region, which he said had been worsened by the cclosing of Enugu’s Akanu Ibiam International Airport.
Umahi said the situation needed immediate intervention in view of the industrious nature of the people of the region, whom he said had to move from one place to the other as traders and business people.
The governor said the President noted the complaints of the delegation and had promised to act on them.
The Aviation Minister, he said, told the meeting that the impediment against the take-off of the expansion work on Enugu Airport had been addressed and that the project would commence without any further delay.
According to Governor Umahi, “what Kaduna is to the North is what Enugu is to the South East,” adding that rail projects in the region would soon take-off.
“The good takeaway 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 Ebonyi Governor said the attention of the President was also drawn to the state of Sam Mbakwe Airport in Enugu, stating that there is a need to expand its runway and carry out extensive work on the tarmac.
Attendance at the meeting comprised serving governors, former governors, ministers from the region, federal lawmakers and leaders of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Igbo socio-cultural organisation.
Other governors present at the meeting were Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), Emeka Ihedioha (Imo), Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu) and David Umahi (Ebonyi).
The Governor of Anambra, Willie Obiano, was represented by his deputy.
Also present were the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim, Senator Sam Egwu, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, former Ebonyi State governor, Chief Martin Elechi; former governors of Imo State, Achike Udenwa and Ikedi Ohakim, former Enugu State governor, Sulivan Chime, serving ministers, among others.
Also on Thursday, South South governors and leaders of nine states (Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Edo, Cross River, Bayelsa, Abia, Imo and Ondo) that comprise the Niger Delta met with the President at the State House.
Briefing reporters after the meeting, Chairman of South South Governors’ Forum, Mr Seriake Dickson, did not categorically disclose the purpose of the meeting, but stated that they were in the State House to hold talks with the President on issues of concern to the Niger Delta.
The Governor, who said the meeting was propelled by recent events in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), added that they briefed the President on challenges and issues brewing at the NDDC, with the President promising to look into situation.
Asked to state specifically the challenges at the NDDC as well as the issues of concern in the Niger Delta region, Governor Dickson declined further comment, simply saying that the visit had to do with the stability and development of the Niger Delta, to which he said the President was in full grasp of the situation.
“Our concern has to do with the stability and development of the Niger Delta. We had a robust discussion with Mr President, who fully understands the challenges that come with development, and he promised to look into the challenges which he’s aware of and we all agreed to work together,” he said.
Present at the meeting were Governors Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta), Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Dickson (Bayelsa); deputy governor of Edo State, Philip Shaibu, Minister of Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio, Minister of State for Niger Delta, Tayo Alasoadura, among others.