Senate yesterday urged the Federal Ministry of Aviation and all relevant agencies to functionally restore the international flights status of the Margaret Ekpo International Airport, Calabar in Cross River State.
Specifically, the upper legislative chamber advised them to fix and upgrade the existing facilities to meet up with the required international standards while also ensuring adequate security to protect equipment like the Navigational Aids, lighting cables, instrument landing system, ILS and the perimeter fence that are constantly vandalised by the criminals.
It also called on them to install the Migration Information and Data System, MIDAS, saying this “will aid in restarting the international route programme of the airport.
The Senate’s resolutions were sequel to a motion on the “Urgent need to upgrade infrastructure and standardise travelling processes at the Margaret Ekpo International Airport, Calabar, Cross River State”, by Senator Sandy Onor (PDP Cross River Central) and co-sponsored by Senators Gershom Bassey and Agom Jarigbe representing Cross River South and North, respectfully.
Senator Onor, while leading debate on the motion, recalled that the airport was commissioned in July 1983 by former President Shehu Shagari and was equipped with modern facilities at the time and soon raised to the status of international airport.
He also informed that in the 1980s and 1990s, the national carrier, Nigeria Airways used to fly regionally from Calabar to Cameroon and Equitorial Guinea, pointing out that “this impacted positively on the economy Cross River State, Nigeria and the sub-region at large.”
“The airport had standard facilities at that time, which were being maintained by the federal government. Most of these facilities while still being used, are now obsolete and need to be upgraded or replaced.
“Although the airport still has the international status, the airport does not operate any international or regional flights anymore. In fact, until recently, only one commercial airline plied the Calabar route,” he stressed.
Senator Onor also expressed worry that “if the status of the airport is not restored, most of these facilities will further deteriorate and waste”, adding that “lack of international or regional flights has greatly affected the economy and tourism drive of the state in particular and Nigeria at large.”
Contributing, Senator Chukwuka Utazi (PDP Enugu North) also called on the federal government to upgrade the existing facilities in the airport to truly meet international status, saying “as the vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Security and National Intelligence, we visited Calabar and saw the damage done to the airport.”