By G9ija

Ahead of the Yuletide, the Deputy Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Mr. Toby Okechukwu, has urged the Federal Government to reopen the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu.

Okechukwu, representing Aninri/Awgu/Oji River Federal Constituency of Enugu State, said that the call was aimed at safeguarding the citizenry in the South-East geo-political zone of the country.

He said such step had become most expedient ahead of the Yuletide season when Nigerians from the zone would be visiting home from every part of the world.

The lawmaker argued that multiple stopovers expose the people from the zone to more risk than a direct flight to their destinations in a time of pandemic.x

Okechukwu, in a statement, also urged the reopening of the remaining international air facilities to international flight operations in the country.

The call by Okechukwu 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.

Okechukwu said that since the 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 to the Federal Government to keep the airport shut from international operations after investing a whooping N10 billion in upgrading it.

“The Christmas and New Year seasons are the periods 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 also emphasised that working with other relevant agencies, the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 and NCAA was a necessary step to restore full international operations by such airports.

“There are no peculiar health risks 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.