Magnus Eze, Enugu

Southeast governors have denied inviting the military to carry out the Operation Python Dance in the zone in 2017, even as they said that air operations would be sustained in the region to stem insecurity.

Arising from their meeting in Enugu yesterday, the South East Governors’ Forum disclosed that they would seek a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari and the Security Chiefs to review the security situation in the region.

Ebonyi State Governor and Chairman of the forum, Chief David Umahi, who addressed newsmen after their meeting insisted that there was no going back on the ban on movement of cattle by foot from state to state in the zone.

“We agreed that joint air operations to flush out bandits from all forests in Southeast are to be a continuous one. 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.

“And also restrain the movement of cattle and herdsmen from coming to communities across farmland. We commend Enugu State governor in establishment of Forest Guards which was a decision of Southeast governors. And we encourage the remaining Southeast governors to launch theirs. Southeast governors have banned herdsmen who move about with AK 47 guns and cutlasses and we want our security agencies to implement same.

“Southeast governors never invited the army nor were Southeast governors informed of any of their operations on Python Dance until the operations were already started in the states.

“Southeast governors would like to write to Mr. President to request for a meeting with him and all the Security Chiefs on security to douse tension in the region,” he said.

On the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, the governors indicated their commitment to working closely with the Federal Government to ensure that a good job was done by way of rehabilitation and in good time too.

According to Umahi, the “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.”

The governors also said that they will form a committee with Minister of Aviation and Minister of Works to discuss on the palliative measures to be made while flights were diverted to the Sam Mbakwe Airport, Owerri.

Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, who was at the meeting assured that the yet to be awarded rehabilitation work on the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, would be completed by December.

The airport was closed by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) on   August 24, for rehabilitation following safety concerns. Sirika also disclosed that the contract would be given to a reputable firm, while explaining that government’s action was not intended to punish the people of the region, adding that it was purely for the sake of safety.

“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, planning,” the minister said.  It was gathered that two leading companies; Julius Berger and PW Nigeria are being considered to handle the Enugu airport repair project. Governors Ifeanayi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Willie Obiano (Anambra), Emeka Ihedoha and Deputy Governor of Abia state attended the meeting. The governors at the end of the meeting inaugurated a joint security committee with control station in Enugu and headed by Major Gen. Obi Umahi (Rtd), with former Inspector General of Police, Ogbonnaya Onovo, Capt. Awa Agwu (Rtd), Commissioner of Police, Ikechukwu Aduba (rtd) and Mr. Ray Nkemdirim, as members.