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, and the remaining international air facilities to international flight operations.

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Okechukwu made the plea in a statement he issued on Sunday.

He noted that this had become most expedient ahead of the Yuletide season when Nigerians visit their homes from every part of the world.

In the statement titled ‘Reopen Enugu Airport, Others to International Flights, Reps Deputy Minority (Leader) Tells FG’, the lawmaker noted that multiple stopovers expose people to more risks than a direct flight to their destinations during a pandemic.

Okechukwu said this in reaction to the announcement by the Director-General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Musa Nuhu, on the planned reopening of the Malam Aminu Kano International Airport Kano and the Port Harcourt International Airport to international flights.

The Deputy Minority Leader said since the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, had earlier said 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 operations after investing a whooping N10bn in upgrading it.

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The statement partly read, “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.”

The lawmaker, who represents Aninri/Awgu/Oji River Federal Constituency, stressed that the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 and the NCAA, working with other relevant agencies, were in a position to take necessary steps to restore full international operations by such airports.

He added, “There are no peculiar health risks peculiar 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.”