by Obinna Akukwe
The Enugu International Airport also known as Akanu Ibiam International Airport is another 419 on the Biafran Igbo citizens of Nigeria because there is yet nothing international about the airport. It is instructive to note that late President Umoru Yaradua was the one who in 2008 approved the upgrading of the airport to International status in line with his administration’s policy that each geopolitical zone will have at least one international airport.
In 2009, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) under Yaradua approved the sum of N4.13 billion for work on the airport which would include extension, asphalting and marking of the runway. The old runway which is 2,400 meters long was to be extended by 600 metres to make it 3000 meters or three kilometers and the width extended from the existing 45 meters to 60 meter. In December 2009, the airport was closed temporarily for work to commence and those wishing to take the route were diverted to Sam Mbakwe Airport Owerri. This work spanned the period when Mr. Babatunde Omotoba was minister till when Fidelia Njeze took over. Therefore, the process of upgrading the Enugu International Airport was kick started by late Yaradua and N4.13 billion naira was approved by the FEC and released for the work to commence.
The Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by President Jonathan on October 19, 2010 reaffirmed the upgrade of Enugu Airport to an international facility and awarded a reviewed contract of about N6.1billion.
With the reaffirmation of the international status of the airport, Igbo leaders started the process of unbridled sycophancy by praising the current regime to high heavens over an international airport that still does not exist.
Chief among the praise singers was the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremmadu who said that ““For many decades, the people of the South East, the local and international business community have waited seemingly endlessly for the commencement of international flight operations at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, and the people of South East will remain ever grateful to President Jonathan for the breakthrough.”
When Stella Oduah moved from ‘Neighbor to’ Neighbor Campaign Organization’ where she muscled out and overshadowed the Chief Tony Anenih owned ‘Door to Door Campaign Organization’, she was rewarded with Minister of Aviation for a job well done and she commenced upgrade of facilities in all the 22 airports in Nigeria. In the first phase eleven (11)airports including General Aviation Terminal (MMA) International Terminal (MMA), Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja, (International Terminal ), Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja, (Domestic Terminal), Kaduna Airport Terminal, Margaret Ekpo International Airport Terminal, Calabar, Benin Airport Terminals, Akanu Ibiam International Airport Terminal, Enugu, Sam Mbakwe Airport Terminal, Owerri, Port Harcourt International Airport Terminal, Yola Airport Terminal and Yakubu Gowon Airport, Jos were scheduled for upgrading.
Therefore it is absolutely silly for Igbo leaders to grovel before Jonathan for upgrading Enugu Airport as if it is the only one in Nigeria being overhauled. Completely silly and self-effacing!! For goodness sake the Igbos gave this man 90% votes and even zones that gave him 5% votes also got their airports renovated at amounts far higher than was spent at Enugu Airport. Julius Berger was awarded the N9.5bn contract for the Nnamdi Airport upgrade work, while Messrs Crew Construction Company in a joint venture with Itlay’s Messrs Cremona Construction and Romania’s Messrs Coffer Impex were to upgrade Aminu Kano at a cost of N12.8bn while Enugu got N6 billon and yet the Emir Ado Bayero of Kano did not lead a ‘ thank you’ praise singing troupe to Aso Rock.
The Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), George Uriesi, even affirmed that the Federal Government had invested $870 million (N139,200,000,000) in airport infrastructure, which includes the remodeling of the terminals and other safety critical equipment. If the Federal Government invested N139 billion naira to upgrade 11 airports around Nigeria and Enugu Airport got only N6 bilion of it, then why the celebration. Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Jos, Yola, Kano, Calabar and Kaduna airports had more budgetary allocations than Enugu Airports yet Afenifere, Arewa Consultative Forum, Middle Belt Forum, South South Peoples Assembly have not kowtowed before any Jonathan. The Governors of the South West, South South, North East, North West or North Central have never led any delegation to over praise Jonathan for upgrading their airports.
President Jonathan had said that a new international terminal for the Enugu Airport will cost N13 billion naira. The question is, has any funds been committed to build the international terminal. Is there any budgetary allocation for the terminal for the year 2015? The answer is negative. Therefore the Enugu Airport project is a 419.
What is the state of landing and safety equipment at the airport? This airport is a big risks to international airlines especially those from Europe, America, Asia, Middle East because it is international in propaganda and not in facilities. Egypt Air and South African Airways have rejected overtures to use the airport. The only airlines that had the magnanimity to use the Airport are Ethiopian Airline which operates skeletal flights to Addis Ababa and in connecting flights to some destinations.
The Turkish Airlines signed agreement in principle as announced by Vice President Sambo a year ago but fled back to Greece after inspecting the equipments on the ground. If that airport is truly international airlines like Virgin Atlantic Airways, Lufthansa Airlines, British Airways, KLM, British Caledonian Airlines, Oatar Airways, Emirates Airlines will ply the route, but for now all overtures from certain quarters to lure these carriers to Enugu have failed woefully due to what they termed poor quality infrastructure. As at January, 2015, no airline from Europe, America, Asia and Middle East have landed or taken off from Enugu International Airport
The airport lacks many safety landing facilities including the Doppler Weather Radar used for real time detection and tracking of hazardous weather systems such as thunderstorms, wind shear, turbulence, dust storms. This equipment was recently installed in Abuja, Port Harcourt, Maiduguri, Yola and none installed in Enugu.
What of the Low Level Wind Shear Alert Systems (LLWAS) and RETIM Synergy Satellite Image Receivers among others critical landing, navigational and radar enhancement equipments of international standards. They are missing at the airport and no foreign airline will risk a crash. The international terminal is not there yet.
The runway and aircraft hangers are always flooded whenever there is rainfall and many times passengers have to removetheir shoes, fold their trousers to walk up the tarmac for boarding. Many Igbos who expected to connect from their various overseas destinations to Enugu were disappointed during the Christmas season of 2014 and will still be disappointed by December 2015 because there is no plan to give the South East an international airport. This Enugu International Airport is another 419 on the Igbo nation and the foreigner airlines have dismissed the international status of the airport as a scam. When the emperors decide to actually give us an l airport the volume of activities, flights and passenger traffic will prove it- what we have is another International airport 419 on the Igbo nation and some fools are still celebrating.