…Says multiple stopovers expose people to risk of COVID-19 pandemic
By Levinus Nwabughiogu
Deputy Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Toby Okechukwu, has called on the Federal Government to urgently reopen Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, to foreign flight operations.
He said the call was necessary to enable Nigerians visiting home from every part of the world during the yuletide season to fly directly to their various destinations, noting that multiple stopovers could expose people to more risk in a time of COVID-19 pandemic.
Okechukwu, who made the call in a statement in Abuja, yesterday, said the appeal came on the heels of the recent pronouncement by the Director-General of 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.
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He said 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 for the Federal Government to keep the airport shut from international operations after investing a whooping N10 billion to upgrade 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 a 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, said further: “There are no particular 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.