The Senate on Thursday concurred with the Public Holiday Act (Amendment) Bill passed by the House of Representatives, which approved June 12 as the new Democracy Day.

Senate has rejected moves by the Federal Government to downgrade Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu.

Government’s decision was disclosed by former minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika.

The upper legislative chamber also urged the federal government to rehabilitate the airport’s runway, for the safety of passengers and aircraft.

The resolution was consequent upon a motion by senator Victor Umeh, which was co-sponsored by 16 other lawmakers, at plenary, presided over by Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu.

Moving the motion, Umeh said: Senate is aware of the threat by former Sirika, that the Akanu Ibiam International Airport would be downgraded.

“This was because of what he considered as imminent dangers posed to air travelers by the presence of a nearby market, a state radio mast on the flight path of airlines, which threaten safety of incoming aircraft.

“He also alluded his reason to an abattoir, which attracts large birds and expose airplanes to birds strikes, the location of a free trade zone and the decrepit state of the runway,” he said.

The lawmaker appreciated the concern of Sirika ”over the safety of passengers and airplanes that use the airport, which currently serves travellers from Enugu, Anambra, Ebonyi, Kogi, Benue, and Cross River.

According to Umeh, the airport is the only international airport in the entire South East and that it is disheartening that since the launch of the airport, as an international facility in 2013, it is yet to be given a facelift that befits an international airport.

“Senate is worried that currently, the airport has only one runway which is in bad shape having been patched and lacks the second runway that should serve as an alternative in keeping with international standard.

“Senate is further worried that the runway of the airport awarded to PW PLC was carried out without internal drains which is affecting the stability of the runway, making it to crack and develop portholes,” he said.

He said senate is alarmed that the only source of water supply to the airport is through supply from tankers, Fire Service van and the reservoir, which cannot stand the test in times of emergency, unlike other airports that have constant water supplies.

He noted that when the runway of Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport needed to be rehabilitated, the airport was not downgraded in status.

Umeh welcomed the efforts of Enugu State Government in removing those structures that the ex-minister considered major challenges hampering the smooth operation of the airport.

Other lawmakers who spoke also supported the motion. When Ekweremadu put the motion to voice vote by, it was unanimously adopted.

Thereafter, Senate resolved that the federal government and the Aviation ministry should not consider downgrading the airport.

The chamber urged government to take steps to complete the new terminal building of the airport and put it to use by local and foreign airlines. It urged the Aviation ministry and its agencies to develop a water source from nearby Ekulu River; for the airport’s use.

Senate appreciated the state government for swiftly demolishing and ordering the relocation of Orie Emene Market and, also, commended the government for shutting down the nearby abattoir and ordering the immediate removal of broadcasting mast and other illegal structures near the airport.

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