Borno State Governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, Monday pleaded for the re-opening of the Maiduguri International Airport, which was closed down on the heels of the December 2 attack of the state capital, Maiduguri, by members of the outlawed Boko Haram sect.
During the attack by the sect, a section of the airport was attacked as well as the neighbouring Air Force base and an Army barracks, which led to the closure of the airport and air services to the town.
The plea by the governor followed the two separate meetings he held with the Managing Director of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Chief Nnamdi Udoh, and the officials of the Nigeria Customs Services (NCS) in Lagos, over the four months closure of the Maiduguri international airport and clearance of 400 containers of agricultural equipment imported by the state government.
Speaking during the meeting with Udoh, Shettima asked that the airport be re-opened to allow for access to the town and stop the economic crisis of the state.
He noted that the “airport is very critical to Borno people as one of its major links to rest of Nigeria and the world,” adding that the state government in collaboration with security agencies in the state had “already taken measures to ensure enhanced security of the airport and its facilities as well as increased surveillance of roads to secure the lives of both land and air passengers.”
The governor further promised to support NAMA in ensuring successful flight operations and noted that being a transit airspace, the Maiduguri airport was also critical to international travellers departing from other parts of Nigeria.
In order to ensure the resumption of flight to the state, the governor had also directed the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) to undertake a courtesy visit on Arik airline headquarters in Lagos with the instruction to of persuad the management to resume flight services to Maiduguri from Lagos and Abuja.
In his response, Udoh assured him of the immediate commencement of the repairs of some of the ailing facilities at the Maiduguri airport, indicating that the airport would be opened as soon as the repairs are completed.
He emphasised the importance of the Maiduguri airport as a connecting route to other countries which makes it a strategic airspace not only to Borno people but to the country at large.
Informed sources said the airport was to be opened on March 2, 2014 but the sources said the closure was indefinite, which was an apparent pointer to Shettima’s intervention with NAMA, Arik airline among other stakeholders in the aviation industry.
In another development, Shettima also visited the office of the NCS in Lagos to ease the clearance of 400 containers of agricultural equipment imported by the state government.
Shettima, who was at the Apapa Area 1 Command of the NCS, said during a five-hour meeting with senior Customs officials that the imported 400 containers of numerous agricultural equipment was aimed at aggressive revival of agriculture in the state in order to create jobs, generate wealth and enhance food security.