WE are elated by the new song that the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, sang after a recent meeting with South East Governors over the closure of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu.
The closure of the airport, which took effect on August 24, 2019, had drawn massive anxieties among stakeholders in the South-East and users of the airport because there was no mention of the duration of the closure and steps the Federal Government would take to correct the problems complained of.
Instead, Sirika had simply said the airport, which is more than 50 years old, would be closed because of an offensive radio mast and a nearby market that attracts birds, thus presenting the risk of bird strikes on aircraft.
Even when the spokesperson of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu, assured the closure was for the purpose of repairing and expanding the ragged runway, she gave no further details.
This was totally unlike the case of the Abuja airport whose closure for six weeks in March 2017 was heralded by elaborate preparations to divert traffic to Kaduna Airport while credible contractors worked on the second runway day and night till completion.
At the meeting penultimate weekend, Sirika said the airport would be reopened before December 2019, and that reputable construction companies like Julius Berger and PW had been contracted to work “day and night” to ensure the runway is extended and the tarmac and buildings destroyed by rainstorms are repaired.
Said he: “Indeed for us at the centre in this federating country, we take the city of Enugu extremely important, because what Enugu is to the South East is what Kaduna, for example, is to the North or Ibadan to the South West.
“So, contemplating to close down the runway in the heart of the South Eastern part of the country, (sic) very mobile, very enterprising people, it’s not done without complete respect and regard to the activities around this centre. It was purely based on safety to ensure that people (who) are flying into the airport do so safely”.
We find these words very reassuring, and as a newspaper, we will keep an eye on this project to its logical conclusion.
We believe the only way this country will develop is for public amenities built with our commonwealth to be evenly distributed among the six geopolitical zones.
It will not only promote even development, it will also give every section a sense of belonging and increase their love for the country.
We call on the governments and peoples of the South-East to give the Federal Government maximum support to complete this project, and ensure that the use of the alternative Owerri and Asaba airports is as safe and convenient as possible for travellers.