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Minister of Transportation, Rotimi
Amaechi, said yesterday the Federal Government will not back down on its
decision to close the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.

Speaking at the second presidential
business forum in Abuja, Amaechi said a Lufthansa plane had been grounded for
the past three days as a result of damage to its gear while it was landing.

Amaechi said the entire
architecture of the runway had collapsed, and that the facility built 34 years
ago, had outlived its 20-year lifespan.

He was responding to Frank
Udenba-Jacobs, president of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), who
expressed the opposition of the private sector to the closure

Amaechi said work to be done during
the six-week closure is not just repairs, but complete “rebuilding of the
airport. We are not going back on closure of Abuja airport. I understand that a
Lufthansa plane landed and its gear got damaged. It has been there for three
days. The runaway was built to last for 20 years but it has been in use now for
34 years,” he said

On the suggestion that the repairs
can be done at night to free the airport during the day, Amaechi said: “We
cannot do it only at night. We don’t want to lose anybody. We are not
repairing, but rebuilding. If anything happens, you will ask us to resign and
we don’t want to resign,” he noted.

In another development, speaking on
Arise Television programme, Amaechi said the Buhari administration plans to
develop the Niger Delta, and that it would not be done by “sharing money to the
political elite” as was done in the past.

“The conversation on Niger Delta is
ongoing. Recently, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was in Niger Delta to continue
with the dialogue. And President Muhammadu Buhari is committed to resolving the
issues,” he said.

“But, unlike in the past, where the
political elite were interfacing with the Niger Delta Development Commission
(NDDC), the Presidential Amnesty Office and were sharing money meant for the
development of the region, we will invest in infrastructure development and
capacity-building in the area,” he said.

Amaechi also gave reasons for the
present recession, saying it was largely caused by the corruption of the past

“We are in recession because when
former President Olusegun Obasanjo was leaving office, he left $68 billion in
foreign reserves. What happened to the $68 billion? Don’t forget we were in
recession in 2009; we have forgotten that the then President Umaru Yar’Adua had
to go to the Excess Crude Account to take a billion dollars every month to fund
the economy.

“By the time Yar’Adua died, about
$48 billion was left in the Excess Crude Account. They said the Governors’
Forum should share the money; fine. They should also ask why the governors said
they should share the money.

“At that time, we used to hold
monthly economic council meeting. The Constitution says there must be at least
one economic council meeting every month. Under the watch of former President
Goodluck Jonathan, they stopped the meeting.

“Do you know why they stopped it?
Because any time we come for the meeting, $48 billion will come down to $47
billion and when we ask, they will tell us the President said they should use
it,” he added.

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