L-R: Anambra state Deputy Governor, Nkem Okeke; Abia Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu; Dave Umahi; Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and Imo Deputy Governor, Jona Ilonna.

…deny involvement with Python Dance

In the light of the growing insecurity of in the region, on account of herdsmen attacks and kidnappings, Governors of the South East geopolitical zone have banned movement of cattle and armed herders from community to community within the zone.

The Governors who made the decision in Enugu on Saturday, during a stakeholders meeting that included the Army, the Police, the clergy, Igbo leaders, Federal Ministry of works, Aviation, among others, also said they have assurances of the Federal Government that the Akanu Ibiam International airport would be reconstructed by two set of contractors to ensure that the work is completed in December.

In a communiqué read by Chairman of the Forum and Ebonyi State governor, Engr. Dave Umahi, the governor said the states in the zone would in the next one week, roll out complete palliative measures as a result of the closure of the Enugu international airport.

According to Umahi, the stakeholders deliberated on two major topics on matters of insecurity and the matters arising from the closure of the Enugu airport.

“We also agreed that we have to put measures in place to restrain movement of herdsmen and their cattle from one state to another which is a source and point of conflict with the natives and farmers,” he said. “And also restrain the movement of cattle and herdsmen from community to communities across farmlands.”

“South East governors have banned herdsmen who move about with AK 47 guns and cutlasses and we want our security agencies to implement same.”

The governors also used the opportunity to clarify that they were not party to the invitation of soldiers for the Operation Python Dance in the zone, contrary to the allegations by the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB).

“South East governors never invited the army nor were the South East Governors informed of any of their operations on Python Dance until the operations were already started in the states,” Umahi said.

The Ebonyi governor said they would write to President Mohammadu Buhari to request for a meeting with him and all the security Chiefs on issues of security to douse tension in the region.

He also acknowledged the safety reasons given by the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika for the closure of Enugu Airport, noting that it was to avert loss of lives.

“The Honourable Minister of Aviation has assured us that the Akanu Ibiam International Airport will be reconstructed to meet the Abuja International Airport standard, the runway shall be reconstructed and extended, and the landing equipment shall be replaced with a better night landing light installation and he has assured that the work will go on day and night and it must be completed before December 2019.

“Other works like the cargo section, extension of the tarmac, buildings that were damaged by rain storm etc are also in the package. He has assured us also that two sets of contractors are pinned down for any of them to be used like Julius Berger as we requested and P&W but in the weeks ahead we will be asking him that we have a choice of Julius Berger.

“Palliative measures is being arranged and the South East governors will have a committee with Minister of Aviation and Minister of Works to discuss on the palliative measures. We are very committed as South East governors for the safety of pour people, for the convenience of our people to ease all inconveniences and these we are going to do.

“Some states have already started and some states will also follow. And in the next one week we will totally roll out our palliative measures and we assure our people of their safety.

“On Sam Mbakwe Airport, the Honourable Minister said they had already met and a number of facelift will be given like the barbed wire, the tarmac, the buildings; they are all going to be given facelift, where most of these planes will be diverted to and we are very happy with that.

“South East governors have already set up security committee, we shall inaugurate them today, one per state and they will play major role with our security chiefs and also play role in this airport closure and diversion of flights.”

In his own remarks, the Minister for Aviation, Hadi Sirika said the Federal Government takes the Enugu seriously as it does to Kaduna for the North and Ibadan for South West.

“This airport is one of the five International Airports that we have, I want to assure you that we will take all the seriousness that it deserves, and we should be able to deliver this project all things being equal before Christmas,” he said.

“We are conscious and aware of the hardships that you might go through but I believe it is worth it in the interest of safety and the committee that has been formed will discuss the palliative and we will also discuss the arrangement and planning.”