By Dennis Agbo
PRIOR to its closure on August 24 2019, Aviation stakeholders had expressed safety concerns over the bumpy runway of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport and threatened to withdraw services from the airport.
Shortly after the closure for rehabilitation of the airport runway, the Minister Aviation, Senator Hadi, Sirika met with South East governors and other stakeholders to review the modalities for setting up platforms for making sure that the runway and the associated works were executed, in line with international best standards and that the project was adequately funded.
The South East Governors Forum, SEGF, thereafter set up a technical committee known as SEGF AIIA Rehabilitation/Palliative Works Committee under the chairmanship of Engr. Chris Okoye to ensure that the best was realized from the airport rehabilitation.
The committee was mandated to interface with the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing and FERMA to ensure that palliative works are carried out within all the failed segments of the designated routes to all the nominated airports that will stand in for the Akanu Ibiam International Airport during the period of closure.
The federal government provided a special fund of N10 Billion Naira for the airport rehabilitation project and the project commenced on November 4, 2019, with mobilization of equipment and personnel to site. Construction work commenced on November 17, after the installation of necessary equipment on site with the runway at 3km long, 45m wide with 7.5m shoulder on either side.
The scope of work included survey work; milling of existing wearing course; laying of asphaltic base; provision and laying of fibreglass grid; laying of binder course; provision and installation of mass concrete including dowel bars at turn pad ends; dredging of existing drainage parallel to the runway; construction of crash roads; provision and installation of airfield lightening and provision and installation of runway markings.
As it stands now, the runway project is hundred per cent completed except for airfield lightening, the crash roads, runway shoulders and dredging of existing drainage that are in different stages of completion.
As the execution of the runway procurement was ongoing, the technical committee thought it necessary and prevailed on the federal government to also carry out rehabilitation works at the terminal building, entrance gate, drainage work, aviation clinic, perimeter fencing and road, sewage and water treatment plants, administration block and fire watch tower. These projects are now in their various progress stages.
The first phase of the project comprised the rehabilitation of the runway, the airfield lighting, the runway markings and minor associated works with the runway which have all been completed for aircrafts to land and take off while other repair works continue. The other contracts that make up phase one of the procurement included 12km perimeter fence, perimeter road, water treatment systems and sewage treatment systems, which are at their various stages of completion.
The second phase of the airport development include the clinic, external drainages, additional parking lot, renovation of the existing terminal building, entrance gate, overlay of the external roads and landscaping.
As at Monday September 7, the airfield lighting contract had achieved the basic approach lighting system on both runways; runway edge lights; threshold and runway end lights; precision approach path Indicators and the Taxiway edge lights that allow night operations at a visibility not less than 1,000 meters.
Subsequently, the following equipments are currently under installation: the runway centreline lights, the touch down zone lights, CAT I approach on RWY 08 and CAT II approach on RWY 26 – after fencing, signage and stop bars.
The Nigeria Airspace Management Agency, NAMA, on its side demonstrated capacity and responsibility as the sole Air Navigational Service Provider by ensuring the implementation for installation of New Satellite Communication (VSAT Earth Station) which facilitates the availability of Remote Control Air to Ground, RCAG; Air traffic Services Direct Speech, ATS/DS, which facilitates airport to airport hotline communication via satellite; data exchanges between Akanu Ibiam and other airports around the world via satellite, AFTN. NAMA has also installed extended range VHF radio coverage for Upper-Air Communication for the South East Corridor using 127.3MHZ; new signally lamp in fulfillment of ICAO SARP for Akanu Ibiam International Airport Enugu (Installed at the Tower) to replace obsolete one and new rotating beacon also in fulfillment of ICAO SARP which replaces the unserviceable one in the airport.
In its own effort, among other provisions of enabling environment, the Enugu State government wholly sponsored rehabilitation of VoR Road, at Emene, to ensure access to terminal/enroute VOR/DME, critical navigational equipment during the raining season. The work is still in progress.
SEV learnt that NAMA also intend to install Safe Tower Project for the Airport Control Tower; upgrade of Enugu Enroute/Terminal VOR/DME from a CVOR TO DVOR; CAT 2 ILS formally at runway 26, on runway 08 thereby permitting Enugu to have instrument landing system installed at both runways, that is, runway 26 and 08.
In a report card, chairman of the SEGF technical committee on the Airport Rehabilitation, Engr. Chris Okoye stated that even though some other rehabilitation works were still ongoing in the airport, air and land have been made ready for flights operations having completed rehabilitation of the extended three kilometres runway.
Okoye said: “It was the runway that was promised to be delivered and not the entire projects. The airport was shut because of the runway and not because of the terminal buildings among others; everything should not be ready for flight operations to begin. The runway is probably one of the best runways in Nigeria and by November ICCA will come back to grant license to the airport, to receive world class aircrafts.”
Okoye further disclosed that projects such as the airport gate that was supposed to be part of the international terminal building project were brought into the present rehabilitation works, noting that these other projects cannot restrict flight operations.