By Dennis Agbo, Enugu
Lack of sustainable funding for the reconstruction of the shutdown Akanu Ibiam International airport Enugu has mitigated the commencement of work at the Eastern air gateway.
The airport was closed by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, on August 24, 2019, with the promise that renovation work for the dilapidated three kilometers runway will commence immediately.
Minister for aviation, Alhaji Hardi Siriki had equally promised that the airport would be ready for use during Christmas. However, six weeks after the closure of the airport, work is yet to resume at the airport, not even the contractor has mobilized inch equipment to the site.
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An investigation by Vanguard revealed that the contractor, which was the same firm that did the now dilapidated runway in 2010, is afraid of mobilizing to the site because it was not sure of sustainable funding, especially since the work would not require break when it starts.
Sources that spoke to Vanguard blamed the federal government to have closed the airport without setting aside funding for the project. They asked the federal government to use the funding model used during the renovation of Abuja airport for Enugu, arguing that it would be the only way to save the airport from permanent closure.
They particularly pleaded with The Presidency, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Aviation to collaborate and provide sustainable sources of funding so as to guarantee that the project could be completed in two months working day and night.
The respondents said they expect the federal government to do what it did in the case of Abuja airport where the government used money from the Ministry of Agriculture to do the airport work and the palliative work at the Abuja-Kaduna road since Kaduna served as an alternative to Abuja airport.
“You don’t expect the construction company to go in there without making sure that this money will be available because it’s not a project for a one-month valuation. There must be a total funding mechanism that will be sustainable and available on the spur of the moment to ensure that the project is completed,” one of the sources that pleaded anonymity said.
They was also noted that works for airport lights, both the runway, landing and approach lights have to be worked upon simultaneously with the runway reconstruction.
“The light will be done side by side with the contractor doing the runway. It’s a parallel type of job, in the sense that as you are digging the ground, you are laying the conduct. All the landing light, the approach light has to be put on because what it required to be achieved is for the airport to become 24 hours open so as to attract 24 hours flights.”
Chairman of Southeast Governors Forum Airport Rehabilitation/Palliative Works committee, Engr. Chris Okoye said the committee pleads with the presidency and ministry of finance to provide funding that will ensure that the project is delivered in two months.
“This is an emergency and there was no budget abinitio for the proposed work. The Presidency and the Ministry of Finance has to come together to find out how they will get money such as was done during the renovation of Abuja airport,” Okoye suggested.
He stated that palliative works for the alternative Asaba and Owerri airports were going on well, except for Federal Roads Maintenance Agency, FERMA, which he quoted as still looking for funds.
“The federal ministry of works has been working vigorously with many contractors on Enugu-Onitsha old and express roads as well as Enugu-Port Harcourt road and inside Imo state. We also commend the Delta State government for awarding the N420m intervention contract from Niger Bridge to Asaba airport for the road to become better,” Okoye said.