By Chika Otuchikere
Members of the South East Governors Forum have written to President Muhammadu Buhari over the sudden closure of the Akanu Ibam International Airport over renovation works, appealing to him to defer the closure to October.
The Chairman of the forum and governor of Ebonyi State, Dr. David Umahi who signed the letter dated August 19, 2019, said adequate security arrangements were not made for visitors to the south east who may be using alternative airports during the period of closure of the airport.
The governors who commended the president for the projects he has initiated in the region, including the progress of work at the Second Niger Bridge, the completion of the Zik Mausoleum, among others, also presented other teething challenges which they urged him to address.
They appealed to President Buhari to approve the resolution of the South East Governor banning herdsmen without their cattle and movement of cattle by foot in the zone to eliminate increasing cases of killing, maiming, raping of women, kidnapping and destruction of farmlands carried out by the herdsmen.
Part of the statement read: “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.
“That Julius Berger be deployed to offer the one week remedial works on the tarmac within this period and also to be given the contract to resurface the tarmac and extend the runway during dry season.
“That the Federal Ministry of Works in collaboration with the South East Governors Forum 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 by road users.
“That a 24-hourjoint security patrol be provided for the safety of our people and visitors to the South East who will be using the roads day and night through these alternative airports.
“That Mr. President do kindly direct the Ministry of Transport (Aviation sector) to provide some immediate palliatives in form of transportation with armed escorts and helicopter services to prospective passengers from these alternative airports.
“That Mr. President do approve the earlier resolution of the South East Governor banning herdsmen without cattle and movement of cattle by foot in the zone to eliminate increasing cases of killing, maiming, raping of our women, kidnapping of our people and destruction of our farmlands mostly carried out by the foreign herdsmen and in most cases, with the backing of some compromised local herders”.
The governors appealed to the president to permit them to publish the letter to enable the south east indigenes to know that the governors are making efforts to address the challenges confronting the region.
“We plead with Mr. President that we publish this letter to assuage our people’s feelings who erroneously think that no efforts are being made by the leaders of the South East to tackle insecurity and economic challenges facing the zone and to let them know that her leaders before now have been working very hard without making noise as issues of security must not be discussed in the public,” the governors stated.