By Ismaila Chafe
Southeast Governors’ Forum on Thursday called on the Federal Government to include the expansion of the tarmac of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport Enugu in the planned rehabilitation work at the airport.
The Chairman of the Forum, Gov. Dave Umahi of Ebonyi, made the call when he briefed State House Correspondents after a closed door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He said the call had become imperative in order to accommodate bigger aircraft at the airport.
“I came to see him on behalf of our people on the closure of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport Enugu.
”We are very happy with him for ordering the closure of the airport consequent to our letter to him to intervene and that closure has saved a lot of lives because if you land at that tarmac you will see that the tarmac was gone.
”We are aware it wasn’t constructed by the present administration but the tarmac became bad as soon as it was completed.
”So, we have discussed the timeline for the completion. We are all aware that towards December, we have a lot of heightened social economic activities in South East and Enugu is our base – it’s our capital, what Kaduna is to the north, it’s what Enugu is to the South East.
”So, we pleaded with Mr President for the extension of the tarmac so that it can accommodate bigger aircraft;
“We pleaded with Mr President to do what he did when we had the same issue with Abuja International Airport, which he intervened in a number of ways.
”He provided a number of palliative like buses with escorts armed, provided helicopters (though government didn’t pay for that but they paid for vehicles) which they did through a number of transport companies,” he said.
The governor, therefore, urged the president to provide special funding to ensure speedy and timely completion of the airport project.
He said: ”I know that in the last administration we had to rehabilitate Port Harcourt International Airport and because it went through budgetary provisions it lasted for two years.
”But similar intervention by Mr President in International Airport Abuja, he had to provide special funding and then it was later included in the budgetary provision and the fund was accordingly replaced.
”So, we are pleading for similar gesture for Enugu International Airport so that special funding could be given to the Honourable Minister of Aviation.”
The governor also thanked President Buhari for the choice of the Minister of Aviation as a full minister.
”Because just merely requesting him to do a meeting with leaders of South Eastern governors in 24 hours he was with us, he was very passionate about the lives of our people and he is very passionate about his job. We thank him for that,” he added.
Umahi revealed that he formally presented a request of the Southeast people including the governors, leadership of Ohaneze, leadership of Nzuko Umunna, the clergy, bishops and national assembly members who would want to have an interaction with Mr President during the meeting.
He added that he requested for joint security operations to address the menace of ”killer herdsmen” in the Southeast.
”We also told Mr President about the foreign herdsmen that come to our land with AK47, it has heightened tension in the region, they kill and maim our people, rape our women and people are very much afraid going to farms and most of these people are in the tick bushes in the South East.
”So, we requested for joint operation with security forces to flush these people out.
”We don’t really have issues with our traditional herdsmen some of them have been living with us for quite a long time.
”But the foreign herdsmen most of them don’t even speak Hausa neither do they speak Fulani or English and a number of them are being caught by security agencies and it’s introducing a new dimension in the name of herdsmen.
”We have informed Mr President that as governors of South East, we have banned this foreign bandits in the name of herdsmen,” he said.