Did the Federal Government of Nigeria upgrade the Akanu Ibiam Airport (now Akanu Ibiam International Airport, AIIA), Enugu to international status back in 2010 based on wrong advice by then Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah?
How much was actually expended on the upgrading of the critical aviation facility under the minister and why was there no serviceable runaway at the airport despite its upgraded status more than 10 years after?
Answers to these questions may help critical stakeholders understand why an airport located in the region of the most traveled and business oriented people in the whole of Africa has remained perpetually under repair for over a decade after its status was upgraded to international cadre.
According to Hadi Sirika, current minister of Aviation in the country, no less than N10 billion is required and has been delivered for the repair and renovation of AIIA.
But according to some stakeholders, this revelation further accentuate a need to know what has been spent on the Enugu Airport all the while, especially under Oduah, under whose purview the airport was elevated to an international status.
“In nearby Anambra, the state governor is spending just N6 billion to build a cargo airport from the scratch,” explained NnwaJesus Chidi, an aviation travel consultant, trying to draw a contrast in the spending on AIIA and a new airport.
But rather than use it to indict the current minister, Chidi explained that the huge amount to be spent on the airport raises question on what has been done on the Enugu Airport in the name of giving the South East their own international airport.
When the first international flight took off from the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu on August 13, 2013, it was expected that five years later the airport would be servicing at least three more international carriers.
This was because industry market analysts believed that the airlines would attract international passengers from different parts of the south-east and south-south regions of the country who would spend less than two hours to the airport and board their flights rather than travel about six hours to Abuja or Lagos to travel overseas.
But after the excitement that trailed the first flight by Ethiopia Airlines, which has continued to maintain that route, no other airline has started operation from the airport.
According to officials of the Enugu Airport the airport cannot operate 24 hours because of structural deficiencies at the airport. Before it was short down for the current repairs, the airport could only operate from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm daily.
One of the managers, at the time, said there was never enough water for firefighting because it is difficult to dig borehole at the airport due to coal deposits.
Currently the airport management buys water from tankers every day, but this is not enough to provide adequate fire cover for large body aircraft or higher number of aircraft traffic.
There was also no approach lights, which are usually located at the two ends of the runway, about four kilometres before the runway.
These are lights that guide the aircraft to the runway, especially in the night. At the time, too, on one side of the approach to the runway, there is Orie Emene Market, which must be relocated so that the approach light can be installed.
The other side of the approach is located at Abakpa Nike area of Enugu.
A group of independent observers who visited the airport before the recent innovation has this to say. “We made a number of observations beginning from Enugu Airport. At Enugu Airport, the runway is not smooth.”
“We observed that there are potholes and it is not good for aircraft to land. There are a number of airlines going there; we have Aero Contractors, Arik Air and international airlines like Ethiopian Airlines. One of the airlines has withdrawn its operations to that airport.
“The approach light is not there which means that aircraft cannot land in the night despite the fact that it has landing lights. There is no 24-hour supply of water and that is not befitting for an international airport. You cannot call that airport ‘international’ if it does not have running water.”
Though recent renovation under President Mohammadu Buhari has seen to an extensive correctional construction work on the airport, the facility is far from ready to be an international airport.
For instance, Charles Ogbu, an Enugu based social media critic and activist and a keen monitoring agent of the AIIA project has this to say recently on the state of the airport after federal government launched it.
“Only the runway of the Akanu Ibiam Airport is fully ready which means only local flight can resume.
“The Night landing equipment is yet to be fixed. In fact, it is still being manufactured in Germany. This means, just like before, no flight can use the airport at night, for now.
“Neither the cargo terminal nor the international terminal building has been completed. It is today that the Aviation minister, Hadi Sirika announced the release of 1 billion naira for the completion of work on the international terminal building.
“In a nutshell, the renovation of Akanu Ibiam International Airport is still continuing even as they have declared it open for use today. Most of the facilities required for international operation are yet to be fixed. The only work completed at the Akanu Ibiam Airport is the runway.”
According to the authorities, the entire renovation will be completed before the year runs out while international flight will resume at the airport this September.
In frustration, Igbo Renaissance Forum, IRF, called for a thorough investigation of former Aviation Minister, Senator Oduah, for the shoddy job on AIIA.
The group also asked that PW, the construction company that did the job under Oduah be investigated as well.
“A runaway that should have lasted 15 years became the most dangerous airport in Nigeria by the standard of those who shut it down and are still walking free on the street,” stated Nze Ugo-Akpe Onwuka, International coordinator of IRF.
But reacting, the former minister of aviation said that her hands are clean on the matter. In a press release on the matter, Oduah states categorically for the record, that the contract was awarded by her predecessor.
“Senator Stella Oduah, a serving member of the Senate Committee on Aviation, wishes to use this opportunity to urge serious and credible media houses to strive, no matter how hard, to apply due diligence, run thorough fact checks, before going to print, to save Nigeria and Nigerians from ill- intentioned publications,” read her release.
Given further response, exclusively to Elombah.com, the former minister said that the runaway project was awarded before her time. She claimed to have spent only N400, 000 while it was redone for N2 billion but not by her.
- By CENTUS NWEZE, Special Correspondent
Enugu Airport: Nobody dead or Alive has done what I have done for Igbos – Oduah
Former Minister of Aviation, Senator Stella Oduah has disclosed that what she did for the Igbos in Enugu, nobody dead or alive has done half of it.
The former Minister was reacting to a story published by Elombah News in which an Igbo group [Igbo Renaissance Forum called for the investigation of the former Minister and other government officials involved in the Akamu Ibiam Airport project.
Senator Oduah while reacting to the story claimed that her predecessor awarded the Runway contract adding what she has done for the igbos in Enugu nobody dead or alive has done half .
She said, “By the way I did not do runway. Fidelia Njeze did. I did Enugu airport with 400 million naira. From nothing to international standards. It was redone for 2 billion naira”.
“I left office 10yrs ago. 3ministers worked after me. What I did for the igbos in enugu no body dead or alive has done half”
“I did not do runnway because it was awarded before my time”, She added.
Checks by our correspondent showed that federal government designated Enugu as an international airport in 2013 but it recorded its inaugural flight to Addis Ababa, when Senator Oduah was Minister of Aviation.
In July 2018, the Nigerian Senate directed its committee on Aviation to carry out “a holistic investigation” into the contracts awarded for the design and reconstruction of the runway of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu.
Senator Chukwuka Utazi sponsored the motion, Stella Oduah was a member of the committee when the motion was moved.
The report was not submitted before the expiration of eight Senate, and the investigation died.
Again in August 2019, the House of Representatives disclosed plans to probe the collapse of the runway at Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu that warranted its imminent closure for repairs.
This is under the current leadership of the HoR, but information is not coming from the committee.
Stakeholders are now urging the Federal Ministry of Transport and other relevant authorities, to, as a matter of urgency probe the project, repairs and financing of the airport.
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