- Sirika urges Igbos to invest when concession of the airport begins
Nigeria’s Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, on Sunday formally reopened the rehabilitated Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, hours after the first commercial flight, ‘Air Peace No. 5N-BUV’ landed.
The reopening is coming after 370 days of its closure on August 24, 2019 following safety concerns raised by the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).
On October 17, 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari through a tweet post from his official Twitter handle announced the approval of the sum of N10 billion for the rehabilitation of the Enugu airport.
The first commercial flight brought top Federal Government officials in the executive branch, some members of the National Assembly and top party chieftains of the All Progressive Congress (APC) from the Southeast region of the country.
Some of the passengers include Minister of Labour and Productivity, Senator Chris Ngige, former Deputy President of the Senate, Chief Ike Ekweremadu, member representing Enugu East/Isiuzo Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Mr Cornelius Nnaji and the Director General, Voice of Nigeria, Chief Osita Okechukwu.
In declaring the airport reopened, Sirika appealed to the people of the Southeast region to increase their commitment by using the airport to the fullest of its capacity.
Specifically, he hinted that the airport would subsequently be positioned for concession to ensure value for money.
The minister called on investors from the Southeast region to come forward and invest when plans to concession the strategic airport begin.
Sirika also commended the Enugu State Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi for helping to remove the communication masts and other the facilities which had hitherto served as obstacles towards completing the reconstruction of the international airport runway.
He referred to the pulling down of federal government structures, stating the federal government’s resolve to deal with any lawlessness against such infrastructure in any part of the airports across the country.
Sirika told Ugwuanyi, “the actions you have taken and the response of an individual by destroying our structure under construction is commendable. The Federal Government has given the authority to show how not to destroy the government property. We will ensure that these people will no longer take laws into their hands. I also thank the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for performing their duties and FAAN for giving the project all the attention it deserves. FAAN management has been given the mandate to ensure that periodic maintenance be carried out diligently so that we will not have to go through a painful experience of closure again.”
The Minister expressed appreciation to the Governor for constructing access roads to the location of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) facility within the airport saying: “A year and half ago, the facility was not installed but today it has been installed.”
On why the reopening of the airport was delayed, Sirika stated that “while this contract was ongoing, there was a change of hands in the company handling this. It was sold to another entity altogether. We made sure that nothing stopped. I want to thank you Mr Governor because part of the challenges we had was the market which just for emphasis bothers on the safety of people coming in and out of the airport. We all remember when an airplane landed in the river in the US, the reason was that the airplane had a crash and had to land in the water. This is about safety. Because of safety issues, the governor was very passionate to move it. The free trade zone as well and many more.”
Apart from the earlier dignitaries who arrived with the first commercial flight to land at the airport, others present were Governor Ugwuanyi, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyema, National Assembly Chairmen of Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Aviation and the Obi of Onitsha, His Royal Highness Nnaemeka Alfred Ugochukwu Achebe.
But there were complaints from eyewitnesses who complained that apart from the runway, parts of the main building and other adjoining facilities are still either in a state of disrepair or under rehabilitation.
Specifically, the arrival and departure lounges are still under reconstruction as it has construction rails for painting and other rehabilitation works.