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Following the closure of the Akanu Ibiam international airport, Enugu, by the federal government, the Ebonyi State Government on Friday said it will provide free transport services with armed escort for its residents travelling to Owerri, Imo State.

It also said that it will provide free hotel accommodation for such citizens in Owerri, the Imo capital.

The government, however, called on her ‘citizens’ to minimise their traveling as much as possible, pending the completion of the renovation of the airport.

The federal government, through the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, General Manager in charge of Corporate Affairs, Henrietta Yakubu, had announced the closure of the runway at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport to enable it effect major repairs on it.

Pleas by the South-east Governors Forum for a delay of the closure was not heeded by the federal government.

The governors in a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari said they needed time to make proper and adequate logistics provision like security and major repairs on roads leading to alternative airports.

Bedevilled by Insecurity

The South-east has been battling security challenges ranging from herders/farmers clashes, kidnappings, cultism and armed robbery.

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The Owerri airport, at present, is the only operational airport in the region following the closure of the Enugu airport.

The Enugu-Okigwe-Portharcourt road is the major road leading to the Owerri airport from most of the states in the region

But the road in recent times had become a hotbed for criminal activities especially kidnapping.

A traditional ruler in Enugu and his wife, as well as a Permanent Secretary in the state and many others have been kidnapped in the area.

The deplorable state of the road which forces drivers to slow down on some portions makes road users susceptible kidnap and armed robbery.

The other alternative roads like the Onitsha to Owerri, Enugu to Onitsha roads are also in deplorable condition.

The federal government has not been able to complete works on the roads which were awarded in the first tenure of the present administration.

Worried state government

A statement issued by the Secretary to the Ebonyi State Government, Kenneth Ugbala, advised all their citizens to be security conscious while traveling “until all the palliative measures are put in place within two weeks from now”.

The government, however, encouraged all her citizens to route all their air travels to the alternative airport in Owerri, Imo State, pending the completion of the renovation of Enugu airport.

The statement noted that the state governor, David Umahi, expressed concerns on the attendant challenges which the Enugu airport closure would pose for air travelers from the state and further provided some palliative measures for residents and visitors to the state.

The statement reads:

“Ebonyi State Government under the leadership of Governor David Nweze Umahi, has expressed great concern over the safety of Ebonyi citizens and visitors to the state following the closure of the Akanu Ibiam International airport, Enugu.

“Government also calls on her citizens to minimise the rate of traveling as much as possible within this period and being security conscious while traveling until all these palliative measures are put in place within two weeks from now.

“Following this closure and its attendant challenges on air travelers from Ebonyi State, the State Government is making the following palliative measures for her citizens as long as the renovation works last.

“Ebonyi State Government is offering a free transport services to her citizens with armed security personnel to aid movement of travelers from Ebonyi State to Owerri airport to and fro.

“Two Coaster buses with 10 security pick-ups have been purchased for that purpose while an affordable accommodation at Owerri has been put in place for the use of Ebonyi citizens while they wait for their flights or to be taken back from Owerri airport to Abakaliki.”

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