By Dennis Agbo
As the August 31st date for reopening of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport draws nearer, the Enugu Capital Territory Development Authority, ECTDA, has accused the Nigeria Railway Corporation, NRC, of obstructing completion of the ongoing rehabilitation of the airport to derail the process for resumption of flights.
Chairman of ECTDA, Dr Josef Onoh alleged that the Eastern District Manager of NRC, Mr. Olusoji Osidipe was obstructing the agency from executing demolition of Ukwuorji neighbourhood, a slum of shanties close to the airport runway, claiming that the Railway Corporation owns the land and not the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN.
Onoh, who spoke with SEV said: “The District manager is obstructing the Capital Territory from carrying out its lawful duty despite being served a court order to that effect.
“We respected every tenement of the law and obtained a court order to that effect, but he (Osidipe) has been trying to call, sending people to threaten me, trying to bribe me which failed.
“He is going against the progress Mr President and the minister of Aviation has been doing in Enugu airport. His major problem is that he is collecting rent from the tenants they have there.
“We are not contesting ownership of the land but we are saying that shanties cannot be there by the airport.
“This is Enugu and my city and no amount of bribe or pressure from him can make me not demolish that place. I am calling for his removal because he has no stake in Enugu; rather he is out to ruin everything. Now, there is no train working in Enugu because they have illegally allocated all the lands, even on top of railway tracks.”
The Railway District manager, however, said that his preoccupation was that the ECTDA refused to follow due process in marking of the cluster for demolition.
Osidipe said: “I don’t have any problem with the Capital Territory; the land belongs to the Railways and what we are telling the Capital Territory is that whatever they want to do, they should follow protocol.
“You cannot just take the railway land just like that. They have not requested for anything, they have not asked us to do anything. But every time, they go about parading the place, so I said, let us know what their interest is.
“Whatever they want to do, let them communicate to us, we have communicated to them, both FAAN and the state government in writing that we are owners of the land.
“This is the type of land that is meant for future development. You want to have a new station in Enugu, standard gauge is coming and you don’t just give away land like that.
“It is not because you think that the land is vacant and you run over everybody there and do whatever you want. Why do we have a Manager here?
Till now, neither the state government nor FAAN has responded to us on the letter we wrote to them. Ownership of the land is not in doubt, what we noticed is that every time they come and re-measure, what are they trying to re-measure every time?
“If the Enugu Capital Territory will come and say we want to use the land, there will be proper documentation. It’s a federal government land and we cannot just give it to the state without documentation. So, what I am saying is that they should follow protocol.”
When contacted, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, said it did not have any problem with any party.
Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika had during his last visit for inspection of works at the airport said he was confident that flight operations will resume at the airport by August 31st.