The Federal Government yesterday approved the sum of N10 billion for the rehabilitation of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu.
President Muhammad Buhari, via his twitter handle, disclosed the approval on Thursday.
Buhari in his tweet stated: “I have approved the sun of N10 billion for an intervention fund for the upgrade of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu. I have the assurance of the Minister of Aviation that the work will be done speedily and to the highest standards.
“Even as we have items competing for our limited resources, we will continue to prioritise infrastructure investments in every part of the country. It is our responsibility to ensure Nigeria’s infrastructure is fixed; we will keep doing this.”
The airport was in August shut down for urgent repairs following safety concerns over damaged runway. Some airlines operators had diverted operations to the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport, Owerri, Imo State, and Port Harcourt International Airport (PHIA) in Rivers State, as alternative to the closed airport.
The Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) had prior to the closure said the move was aimed at resolving the existing safety and security concerns to flight operations.
Though December completion date was earlier fixed, delays in the rehabilitation had caused many to raise doubts on the commitment of the Federal Government to fix the airport.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, had earlier made case for the removal of the radio station’s mast at the runway approach end, relocation of its market with its abattoir, and a free trade zone located at the edge of the runway, all of which pose risk to flight operations at the airport.
“We may downgrade Enugu Airport in terms of international airport. The runway is terrible. I have been there three times, seen the governor of the state and told them what to do.
“There is a market and an abattoir there at the side of the runway. And this attracts birds. Some days ago, Air Peace airlines suffered a bird strike and this affected the airplane. Thank God no major incident was recorded.
“At the end of the Enugu runway, you have the government establishing a free trade zone at the Centre. Enugu is to the East what Kaduna is to the North. When government wanted to expand the runway to 60m long and 71m wide, there were few houses there and we were promised that they would be demolished and the owners compensated.
“Enugu would have to be closed down. That is the honest truth. I’ve told the governor. Please, let’s face Enugu; expand it and extend the runway. We can push the market two or three kilometers away. We spent $100 million dollars to do the terminal, but who is going there? Even domestic airlines will have to stop operations,” Sirika said.