By Christiana Ekpa
The Deputy Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Toby Okechukwu, has called on the Federal Government to take urgent steps to reopen the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, and the remaining international air facilities to international flight operations.
He said such step had become most expedient ahead of the yuletide season when Nigerians visit home from every part of the world, noting that multiple stopovers exposes people to more risk than a direct flight to their destinations in a time of pandemic.
Hon. Okechukwu who made call in a statement made available to newsmen on Sunday, comes on the heels of the announcement by the Director-General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, Capt. Musa Nuhu, of the imminent reopening of the Malam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano and Port Harcourt International Airport, to international flights.
He said since the Honourable Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, had earlier assured that the Akanu Ibiam International Airport had been better equipped for international operations, it made no economic sense for the airport Federal Government to keep the airport shut from international operations after investing a whooping N10 billion in upgrading it.
“The Christmas and New Year season is the period our international airports are most socially and economically relevant to both Nigerians at home and in the diaspora. The opportunity costs of keeping these airports shut from international operations can be quite high, ranging from higher risk of contracting Covid-19 through multiple stopovers to the issues of more man-hours, security risks, and auto crashes associated with compelling more people than necessary to travel by road”, he stressed.
The lawmaker, who represents Aninri/Awgu/Oji River Federal Constituency, also emphasised that working with other relevant agencies, the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19, PTF, and NCAA, were in a position to take necessary steps to restore full international operations by such airports.
“There are no peculiar health risks peculiar that should warrant the continued restriction of any international air facility from full operations at this time. The PTF and Ministry of Aviation should therefore do all that is necessary to ensure that this is achieved so that Nigerians will not have to suffer unnecessarily. Enough provisions have also been made in the budget; and, in any case, they can always approach the parliament should they need more support, as we are always ready to assist”, he added.