The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the Enugu State government have entered into a collaboration to effectively tackle encroachment and illegal occupants around Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu.
The pact was sealed yesterday after the tour of the facility by the Governor of the State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, and a team from FAAN, led by the Managing Director, Capt. Rabiu Yadudu.
The Federal Government in May threatened to temporarily shut the International Airport, over safety risks to airlines’ operations.
The airport, which has consistently shown runway defects, is also competing with a market, a free trade zone and a telecoms masts owned by the state-owned radio station.
The former Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, had said that the state government was supposed to remove the radio station’s mast at the runway approach end, relocate its market with its abattoir, and a free trade zone located at the edge of the runway.
“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, but nothing has happened.
“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. But now they have built more houses.
“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.
But the State government had since ordered the relocation of the market to avoid airport closure.
Expressing his appreciation to Ugwuanyi for his response, directing that all illegal structures on the airport land be demolished after a week’s notice of evacuation, Yadudu noted that human habitation within the airport’s airfield remains a safety concern to the authority because of the heavy equipment that moves within the environment.
The MD, who also held a town hall meeting with staff of the airport where he assured them of management’s commitment to improved facilities and infrastructure, added that FAAN would continue to ensure safe and secured airports in Nigeria.