BARRING last-minute developments to the contrary, the Dr. Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, AIIAE, with be “indefinitely” shut down effective from August 24, 2019. There is great confusion as to the real purpose of the shutdown.
Newly re-appointed Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, had in May this year, rustled feathers when he first hinted of the Federal Government’s intention to close the airport because of certain factors which, according to him, portended danger to aviation operations.
He said the presence of a market nearby attracts a lot of birds which put flights at the risk of bird-strikes. He also complained about the presence of a “wrongly-placed” radio mast which interferes with flight communications, in addition to the deplorable runway.
However, the General Manager, Corporate Affairs of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu, recently disclosed that the Airport would be closed to resolve existing safety and security concerns, including the reconstruction of the runway.
She did not give the possible date of resumption of operations, and this is what worries users of the airport and stakeholders in the South East Zone.
It will be recalled that when the Abuja Airport runway was to be reconstructed, Sirika, who was then Minister of State(Aviation), had announced a six-week closure between February and March 2017. Arrangements were immediately made to divert all local and international flights to Kaduna Airport which was given an emergency facelift.
Also, the closure of the Enugu Airport in 2010 for the first phase of the expansion of the runway lasted between February 10 and December 16.
There is an urgent need for the date of the reopening of the airport to be made public.
An “indefinite” closure is unconscionable and unacceptable because it will serve no useful purpose. It will seriously affect commuters on that route and end the international flights of Ethiopian Airline and Air Peace, and by extension, severely knock the business environment in the South East.
We strongly believe there is nothing being complained about the over 50- year-old Airport that the Federal and Enugu State governments cannot sit down and resolve expeditiously to ensure minimal interruption of operations.
The Enugu State Government must quickly remove the offensive radio mast and market to enable the expansion of the runway take place because the airport is of overwhelming public interest.
We must continue to make conscious efforts to ensure the even development of Nigeria to give all sections a sense of belonging. We must complete efforts initiated by previous administrations to progressively expand the capacity of all Nigerian airports to promote economic development.
The Enugu Airport should be upgraded and made more viable for robust aviation operations. It should not be downgraded or closed indefinitely. That will send the wrong political signals.