Ekweremadu: We’re Committed To The Early Completion Of Enugu Int’l Airport
The Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has assured that the South East lawmakers and the National Assembly remained committed to the early completion of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu.
Ekweremadu said his findings showed that the cut took place at the level of committees and that hopefully the affected committees would make the necessary explanations very soon.
“The committees of the National Assembly are usually given a free hand to do their jobs, but they are structured in a way that every geopolitical zone is represented. That way, they can call the attention of the principal officer from their zone when any challenges arise. The Chairman of the House Committee on Works called my attention to the challenges in appropriations, award, and funding of major road projects and I made my modest interventions to resolve the issues.
“In this case, the South East occupies the positions of Vice Chairman of the House and Senate Committees on Appropriation and also chairs the House Committee on Aviation. Nobody informed me of any challenges concerning budgetary provisions for the Akanu Ibiam Airport.
“Instructively, the National Assembly approved exactly the same N2 billion for the same terminal building in the 2017 Appropriation Act. So, I believe the relevant committees of the National Assembly committees are on top of the situation.
He observed that the South East Caucus of the National Assembly was very instrumental to the realisation of an international airport for the South East, hence it would be unfair for anyone to play politics with the developments in the 2018 budget by insinuating that he or the South East lawmakers slashed the budgetary provision for the project.
He said: “It is easily recalled that successive military and civilian governments refused to designate an international airport in the South East, despite endless promises. When I emerged as the Deputy President of the Senate in 2007, and with the support of other South East leaders and people, I led a delegation of South East Senators to see the late President Umar Yar’Adua over the matter.
“President Yar’Adua directed the Minister of Transport at the time, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, to designate the Akanu Ibiam Aiport an international facility in November 2007.
“Despite this magnanimity, the contract for the facility upgrade was not awarded even when all due process procurement activities had been completed with a due process certificate issued on December 1, 2008.
“In the 2009 Federal budget, the FG made a provision of N1billion for the upgrading of facilities at the airport. But we, members of the Enugu State caucus of the National Assembly, additionally appropriated the sum of N2 billion meant for constituency projects in our constituencies to the airport upgrade. Yet, the contract was stalled, leading to my protest letter to the late President Yar’Adua dated March 20, 2009 and the contract was eventually awarded.
“We also ensured that the airport was gazetted as an international airport following the appointment of Mrs. Felicia Njeze as the Minister of Aviation by the government of President Goodluck. That administration awarded a major contract that saw to the launch of the airport as an international facility in 2013. I also helped to facilitate the coming of the Ethiopian Airlines to Enugu”.
The Senator also noted that one of the challenges facing the Enugu Airport was its non-inclusion in the Chinese loan for airport upgrades as was done to other international airports like Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kano, and Abuja.
“However, we have continued to make case for the airport. The Minister of Aviation was in Enugu to see the airport. The Aviation Committees of the Senate and House of Representatives visited the airport to see things for themselves. The issue of the terminal building and landing light, among others, were also presented to the President when I led South East Senators to see him in 2017. It was raised in the meeting between the President and South East leaders in October 2017.
“I am happy that the President has indicated that he would send a Supplementary Appropriation Bill. So, by the time we are briefed by the relevant Committees, we will work with our colleagues from other zones to ensure adequate provisions for the airport”, he added.
Ekweremadu also urged the Federal Government to release the already approved N500 million so that work could continue at the airport in earnest.