Talks resume next Tuesday
From Fred Itua,
Abuja, Emmanuel Uzor and Abakaliki
Talks between the Senate and the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, over the planned closure of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, by the Federal Government, yesterday ended in a deadlock.
Though the minister, who appeared before the Senate explained why the airport will be closed for six weeks, both parties could not agree on some concerns raised by lawmakers.
During the session, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, queried Sirika on the cost of ferrying passengers from Kaduna to Abuja during the closure of Abuja Airport.
“Can you please, give us the breakdown of the financial cost, specifically how much you intend to spend in conveying passengers from Kaduna Airport to Abuja during the closure of Abuja Airport? We need to know,” Ekweremadu asked.
Sirika’s inability to provide a breakdown of the financial cost, led to the suspension of the talks between the two parties. Senate President Bukola Saraki, who presided, told the minister to get the necessary documents and return next Tuesday to enable both parties take a final position on the issue.
Saraki, while expressing concerns, said he had been bombarded with calls from Nigerians and ambassadors on the security implication of diverting local and international flights to Kaduna Airport.
Saraki said: “All around the world, international airports are not closed. From Europe to our neighbours in Ghana, they do not close airports. We also want to know how you will handle the security concerns expressed about Kaduna Airport. Nigerians and our partners across the world have expressed worry. Ambassadors have reached out to us to express their concerns.”
Responding, Sirika said: “This work is not for six weeks, but six months. But the closure is for six weeks. This is to enable us work on the runway. We have gotten to a critical stage where we can work on the airport and allow planes to fly. We want to take advantage of the dry season to quickly work on it. If we do not take advantage of this opportunity, we will have to wait till the next dry season.
“For a high travel individual, he will only have to do this for six weeks in his entire life. We are working with security agencies and ministries, religious
Immediate-past chairman of Senate Committee on Aviation, Senator Hope Uzodinma, urged the minister to furnish lawmakers with evidence of an integrity survey report. He also asked the minister to respond to the condemnation of the planned closure by Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE).
He queried: “Have you done an integrity survey? If you have, make the copies available. Nigerian Society of Engineers has condemned the total closure. Are you aware? Are you aware that about four major repairs have been made on the runway and it was not closed? Have you considered the impact of the closure on the recessed economy?”
The minister, while responding, said most of the sections of the runway have collapsed completely. He said the collapse of multiple portions of the runway is a sign that it has collapsed. “The runway has expired,” he added.
On his part, Senator Barnabas Gemade said Kaduna Airport was not designated as an international airport yet. He advised that if the Federal Government eventually decides to go ahead with the closure, it should not be more than two weeks.
Senator Dino Melaye, pointedly told the minister to halt the plan, noting that the security implications were too enormous. He said it was impossible to repair bad portions of Kaduna road within the period.
We’ll protect Ekweremadu –S’East PDP
Meanwhile, the South-East chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday described as joke of the century the alleged overtures on Ekweremadu by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) Senators in the National Assembly, pledging that the zone shall protect one of their own.
National Vice Chairman of PDP, South East, Chief Austin Umahi, said no amount of conspiracy against the Deputy Senate President can stand as the lawmaker has the total backing of the zone and his constituents as well.
He called on APC Senators to leave Ekweremadu alone and face their internal crisis which he attributed to the ouster of the former Majority Leader, Senator Ali Ndume.
“PDP is not in any way responsible for the crisis in APC at the National Assembly especially the Senate and therefore, it was a joke of the century for some Senators on the platform of APC to blame the continued stay of Ekweremadu in PDP as the cause of their problem.
They should first of all put their house in order before making overtures on our leader, the deputy Senate President”
You can’t run Senate, Akpabio tells Lawan
Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, said the new Leader, Ahmed Lawan, is not constitutionally empowered to lead the Senate.
Senator Akpabio spoke after Senator Lawan thanked the APC caucus for electing him on Tuesday.
He said: “I will run the affairs of the Senate for the benefit of all.”
He was immediately countered by Akpabio, who insisted that Senate President Bukola Saraki was in charge, adding that Lawan was appointed to manage APC caucus of the Red Chamber.
“I want to say that Senator Lawan is the Majority Leader and he cannot run the Senate. The Senate President is in charge and he will run the affairs of this house,” Akpabio retorted.
But Lawan called on his colleagues to cooperate with him in his new capacity to deliver the dividends of democracy to Nigerians. He urged them to work in a bi-partisan manner for the interest of all Nigerians.
“Nigeria is our country, it does not belong to APC. It belongs to Nigerians. We should put our hands together and ensure stability in the country. I urge the cooperation and understanding of my colleagues.
“The Eighth Senate started on a shaky foundation. This Senate will end on a solid, stable and successful foundation. I thank the APC Caucus for having confidence and trust in my judgment and ability to serve as Leader of the Senate.
“I ask the opposition, that what the APC caucus has done is for all of us. I am not a Leader for the APC caucus, I am a leader of the Senate. It is the will of God and religious people, we believe in destiny. We have accepted our fate and we have accepted to work for the betterment of Nigerians,” Lawan stated.
Speaking on behalf of the PDP caucus, Akpabio said that with the elevation of Senator Lawan, “all the grumbling and disaffection affecting the Eight Senate would be brought to an end.