Stakeholders in the Enugu Free Trade Zone (EFTZ) have declared their willingness to work with the Ministry of Aviation in addressing all concerns over the proximity of one of the units of the free zone with the Akanu Ibiam International Airport.
Enugu Power Free Zone Company (Enpower FZC), which manages the facility, said the need to work together in addressing safety concerns at the airport has become necessary to clear misconceptions over the well-conceived aviation facility development and growth plans that informed the location of the free trade zone close to the airport.
This move follows media reports credited to the Minister of Aviation, Mr. Hadi Sirika, saying the federal government was considering downgrading the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, to local status, and subsequently shut it down on safety concerns.
Sirika was reported to have listed major safety concerns at the airport to include bad runway, state radio mast on landing approach to the runway, location of EFTZ at the end of the runway, and threats of bird strikes from an abattoir at a nearby market.
The Chairman of Enpower FZC, Mr. Emeka Ene, in a statement, said the minister’s comments have already triggered panic among international investors that had already staked interests in the free trade zone.
He said FZC and the Enugu State Government were already working to address all concerns raised by the minister, including removal of the mast and relocation of the market.
He noted that the EFTZ, which is the only of such facility in the South East zone, was adequately certified compliant to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), and International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Annex 14 regulation for Aerodrome Safety and Height restrictions.
Furthermore, the Enugu Free Trade Zone was approved by the Federal Government in 2015, and the registration and operating licences issued by the Nigerian Export Processing Zone Authority (NEPZA), to operate as a free trade zone following a rigorous evaluation process spanning over seven years.
“The EFTZ, situated on two sites at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, and at the Ninth Mile Area, was established since 2015, by the Federal Government and not the State Government as reported by the media. This followed rigorous engagement with NEPZA, the Ministry of Investment, and regulatory authorities under the Ministry of Aviation, to ensure compliance to international Free Zone best practices and aviation regulations,” Ene was quoted.
He said safety and quality audits conducted on the facility by federal government regulators recognised the importance of aviation safety and international compliance to proximity of the Free zone.
“As a result of this engagement, the Free zone provided for all relevant specifications of Aerodrome Approach distances, setbacks, RESA, height restrictions in compliance with NCAA and ICAO Annex 14 international aviation regulations. Although the Enugu Airport is not a Category 2 airport, Enpower FTZ provided for setback and Aircraft inner approach distances in compliance with a more advanced Category 2 airport,” he explained.