Sam Nzeh and Moses Oyediran
FG has made good its promise to upgrade facilities, says NAMA
We’ll consider flying into Akanu Ibiam, say Dana, Arik airlines
State govt, residents in high spirits
Two days to the reopening of Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, the terminal building is wearing a new look as well as other parts of the facility.
The Daily Times recalls that the airport was shut by the Federal Government on August 24, 2019 for massive reconstruction of the runaway, and terminal building among others at about N10 billion.
The Federal Government had promised to reopen the airport in December 2019 but the date was later changed to April 2020.
The outbreak of Coronavirus however stalled work on the project, making the promised April 2020 reopening date unrealistic.
However, the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, earlier this month while on an inspection of tour of the airport, announced August 29, 2020 as the reopening date. As at 2.15pm on Wednesday when the Daily Times visited the airport located at Emene, a suburb of Enugu, the state capital, construction workers were seen putting finishing touches to the terminal building as well as the entrance or gate.
A bulldozer apparently creating space where cars will be parked was also sighted.
At the gate to the airport, construction workers were racing against time to ensure that it is ready for the reopening.
They were fixing the materials on which the signpost of the airport will be placed as well as working on the toll booths. Heaps of blocks, sand and bags of cement were seen with masons at work.
The entire gate area was also clustered with iron scaffolding pipes as at the time of this report.
At the terminal building, painters were busy at the iron roof extension at the drop off point.
A heap of plastic roofing materials and aluminum bars littered the area. It was also observed that the ceiling of the inside of the edifice was in progress with about a quarter covered.
Piles of scaffolding iron pipes were all over the inside of the complex. Officials of the airport particularly staffers of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) had to wade through the scaffolding iron pipes to access their offices.
Aside from the officials of the airport and those who were fixing the terminal building, no business activity was going on as shops at the airport remained closed. One of the workers carrying out the ceiling of the terminal building, who gave his name simply as Okwudili, said they were doing all they could to ensure delivery of the project.
According to him, all materials needed to do the job have been assembled, adding that they would keep working until the day of the reopening of the airport and even beyond.
Contacted on phone, the airport manager, Cecilia Oguama, declined to speak on the state of affairs at the airport, saying she was not in a position to do so.
The corporate affairs manager of FAAN, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu, also declined to speak when contacted on the phone.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a staff member of FAAN, said that the airport manager cannot speak on the state of affairs at the facility.
He said even though the manager is in charge of the airport, the entire project is being handled by the Ministry of Aviation, Abuja.
He stated that the decision to reopen the airport came from the minister who alone who can speak on the readiness of the airport to reopen on Saturday.
“The airport manager cannot speak on this matter. She is not in a position to know whether the airport will reopen or not on Saturday.
You have to direct your question to the Minister of Aviation. He was the one who said the airport will reopen on Saturday, August 29, 2020.
He has been coming here to inspect the facilities and I’m sure he may be here before the reopening date.
So wait until he comes so that you can hear from him on how ready the airport is to reopen,” he said.
However, an aviation security chief, who declined to have her name in print, told the Daily Times that the ongoing work at the terminal building and the entrance will not stop the reopening of the airport.
She said: “The reconstruction of the runway has been completed and the required Instrument Landing System/ Distance Measuring Equipment (ILS/ DME) has been installed.
That is what is important. The terminal building and the entrance as you can see is not completed but it will not stop the reopening of the airport”.
She added that the work on the terminal building will continue into September.
Meanwhile, the Daily Times observed that some Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) personnel were on ground at the airport.
Though they refused to speak on their mission or the readiness of the airport to reopen on Saturday, it is believed that they were on inspection of the facilities.
However, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) has announced that it has successfully installed a new Category II (CAT II) Instrument Landing System/ Distance Measuring Equipment (ILS/DME) at the airport.
“As the build-up to the reopening of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu gathers momentum, the Federal Government has made good its promise to upgrade facilities at the airport,” a statement by Khalid Emele, NAMA’s General Manager, Public Affairs, in Lagos, read.
Speaking on the readiness to resume flight into Enugu airport, Kingsley Ezenwa, image maker of Dana airline, said the airline was considering flying to Enugu after the reopening of the airport.
Ezenwa said arrangements will soon be concluded to decide when it will commence operations, envisaging passengers’ traffic on the Enugu route.
But for Mr. Ola Banji, General Manager, corporate communications for Arik Air, the airline will take decisions on how and when to fly into the Enugu airport.
“Let the airport be opened first before we take a decision on whether to fly there, we will know when the airport is opened,” he said.
Speaking on the readiness of the Enugu authorities for the reopening of the airport, Secretary to the State Government, Prof. Simon Ortuanya, said the Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyiled administration was not leaving any stone unturned to ensure the smooth resumption of flights.
Ortuanya, who is also the directorgeneral, South East Governors’ Forum, disclosed that the Enugu State government had removed all encumbrances to the airport, including retrieving part of the land encroached upon by some unscrupulous individuals.
“We are ready for the reopening of the airport as long as the Federal Ministry of Aviation and its agencies are ready.
We have done what is expected of us. His Excellency, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, has given the necessary support to the Ministry of Aviation to ensure that the airport comes back to life.
So, we welcome the reopening of the facility,” the SSG said. Meanwhile, Daily Times correspondents who toured Enugu metropolis on Wednesday observed that the people were delighted that flights will finally resume at the airport on Saturday.
Some of the people who said they were not happy when the airport was closed, however, expressed appreciation to the Federal Government for keeping to the promise to reopen it once the reconstruction work was completed.
They also saluted the Enugu State authorities for support given to the Federal Government towards the realisation of the project.