THE formal opening of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, on Saturday marked a major economic leap for the country.
The contributions that the airport would make to the economic development of the South East zone and surrounding States are too important to be consigned to a political decision.
Politics, the type that many advocate can change the country, made Enugu possible. From President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who initiated the re-construction of the airport to President Goodluck Jonathan who promised quick completion of the project during his campaign, the fact is that the airport is important for the eastern flank of Nigeria.
The international airport in Enugu, named after a former Governor of Eastern Region, a former Vice President of the World Council of Churches, who lived an exemplary life of quietude, away from the ostentatious cravings of politicians, is a strong economic platform and users have embraced it.
Businesses that depend so much on travels to Asia would benefit from one of the moves that would decongest Lagos. Those who thought that the decision to fly internationally from Enugu was uneconomical would be stunned to know that the inaugural flight sold out.
There are more stunning statistics. Enough passengers have lined up to fly from Enugu; flights are fully booked into October. Ethiopian Airlines, the only one on the route at the moment, has scheduled to fly four times a week from Enugu in response to demand. Other airlines are indicating interests in Enugu.
The bulk of travellers to Asia, connecting through Addis Ababa, Ethiopian’s hub, are business people from Aba, Nnewi and Onitsha. Before international flights from Enugu, they had to travel to Lagos to make international connections. Nearby States like Benue, some parts of Kogi, and Delta would have Enugu as alternative to Abuja and Lagos.
Akanu Ibiam International Airport is an important strategic handle in the decongestion of Lagos, whose airport needs expansion, but can barely halt for the work to be done. In commending President Jonathan for the inauguration of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, he should also be asked to do more.
More legacy projects like the airport in Enugu are required to fasten the development of the country. The facilities required may vary from one part of the country to the other. The point remains, however, if projects as important as the Enugu airport are located in different parts of the country, they would spread access to major developments.
People are waiting to see if Akanu Ibiam International Airport would meet the expectations that informed its construction.
A further point needs to be made that peace and security are important for the realisation of projects like Enugu international airport.