The planned closure of Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu State, by the Federal Government to give way for contractors to fix the runway, is not going down well with stakeholders from the South East.
For some time now, the runway has been in a state of disrepair; hence government has decided to fix it this Saturday, August 24.
Media source gathered yesterday that the nature of the planned repairs, following the inability of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to state in specific terms when the work would be completed, gives the zone headache.
Allegations that contract for the repair was yet to be awarded and the hurried announcement by FAAN without providing alternatives for the port’s users added fuel to the flame. Pro-Igbo pressure group, Nzuko Umunna, has already started pressurising FAAN to disclose contents of the proposed rehabilitation work.
It has consequently raised a 14-man investigation team to interface with FAAN, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, South East governors and other critical stakeholders on the schedule of the maintenance work for the airport and to possibly shift the duration.It was gathered that the team chaired by a seasoned engineer, Chris Okoye, would liaise with the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing to ensure that emergency palliative works were carried out on the Enugu-Onitsha and Enugu-Owerri roads, so that travellers would have alternative till the completion of work on the runway.
They would also liaise with state governments and security agencies to ensure that security units were mobilised to protect the roads during the period of the closure as well as ensure the airport was not closed beyond six weeks.
Other members of the team, who would also liaise with Federal Government to ensure adequate and timely funding of the project, include Sen. Enyinnaya Abaribe, Archbishop Christopher Ede, Mr. Ben Akabueze, Amb. Okey Emuchay, Gen. Abel Umahi, Dr. Uju Agomoh, Mr. Innocent Chukwuma and Gabriel Inyagha.
Spokesperson for FAAN, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu, said the closure would commence on August 24, 2019, but did not state when it would be completed.
However, she urged travellers to use the Owerri, Port Harcourt or Asaba airports in the meantime.Meanwhile, the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo; Archbishop of Enugu (Anglican Communion), Rev. Emmanuel Chukwuma; and national chairman of United Progressives Party (UPP), Chief Chekwas Okorie, have deplored the handling of the proposed repairs by the Federal Government.
Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chuks Ibegbu, said as much as the airport required rehabilitation, it was however ‘shocking’ the way the announcement for its closure was made. Archbishop Chukwuma said it was unacceptable that the airport should be closed when the roads in the zone had remained “horrible” and details of work to be done kept secret. Few days ago, the airport tarmac was flooded after a heavy downpour, forcing airlines to cancel and reschedule their flights.