YET again, security and the development of infrastructure took centerstage at an expanded meeting of the South East Governors’ Forum (SEGF) as the governors, with critical stakeholders said that they would be seeking a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari on the tense security situation in the region.
At the meeting, Saturday at the Government House, Enugu the SEGF frowned at the manner special military operations were carried out in the zone without the knowledge of the governors, as chief executives of the states.
The Chairman of the Forum and Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi reflected that for example, “South East governors never invited the army or were South East governors informed on any of the operations of Python Dance until the operations had already started in our states.”
At the well attended meeting, the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Abubakar Sirika, told the governors that safety was behind the closure of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu.
In the communique read by Umahi, the governors resolved to ban the movement of herdsmen and their cattle in the zone, especially as it is usually during such movements that conflicts broke out between the herdsmen and the farmers.
The communique noted that that “governors have banned herdsmen who move about with AK 47 guns and cutlasses and we want our security agencies to implement same,” and the governors resolved to commence continuous and sustained joint air operations to flush out bandits from the forests in the zone.
Umahi commended the Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi for his quick response in setting up the Forest Guards, and urged other governors to follow suit.
The governors appreciated the rehabilitation of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport as Umahi praised the steps being taken by the Minister of Aviation to ensure that the project went on diligently.
He stated: “The deterioration of facilities at the airport went on for a long time that the status is in a deplorable situation such that it has to be closed to save the lives of our people.
“The Minister of Aviation has also assured us that the Airport would be constructed to meet the standards of the Abuja International Airport that the runway shall be reconstructed and extended, and the landing equipment replaced with a better night light landing installation.”
Umahi reiterated the view of the Minister that, work will go on day and night and the work “shall be completed before December 2019.”
Sirika further reassured that “we take the city of Enugu extremely important because what Enugu is to the South East is what Kaduna is to the North and what Ibadan is to the South West. So, contemplating to close down the runway in the heart of the South Eastern part of the country, with very mobile, very enterprising people, is not done without complete respect and regard to the activities in this sector.
“It was purely based on safety, to ensure that people flying into this airport do so safely. This is one of our five international airports and we want to assure you that we will take it with all the seriousness it deserves, and we should be able to deliver this project, all things being equal, before the end of December.”
Present at the meeting were the General Officer Commanding (GOC), 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major General Abubakar Maikobi; the Air Officer Commanding, Ground Training Command, Enugu, Air Vice Marshal Idi Amin; and the AIG, Zone 9, Umuahia, Baba Tijani.
Others are Commissioners of Police and State Directors of DSS of thefive states of the zone; the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo; former Minister of Power and Chairman of SEREDEC, Prof Barth Nnaji; the Director of Highways, South East zone, Henry Udeh; leadership of Vigilante/Neighbourhood Watch groups in the zone; and representatives of FERMA and Nzuko Umunna, among others.
The governors of Enugu, (Ugwuanyi), Anambra (Willie Obiano) Ebonyi (Umahi) and Imo (Emeka Ihedioha) states and the deputy governor of Abia, Ude OkoChukwu, were in attendance.