Governors under the aegis of the South East Governors’ Forum (SEGF) recently raised the alarm over the deplorable state of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu. Speaking on behalf of his colleagues, the Chairman of the forum and Governor of Ebonyi State, Engr. David Umahi, particularly decried the state of the tarmac, lighting system and runway at the airport, and declared the airport to be very unsafe for travelers.
The observation of the South East governors on the deteriorating condition of Enugu Airport is quite alarming. It is not surprising that such a damning verdict came from them. As regular users of the airport, they should be in a better position to know when things are no longer in order. We commend their forthrightness in drawing public attention to the worsening condition of the airport and the need for government’s urgent intervention. The poor state of Enugu Airport and indeed some of the nation’s airports is not in dispute.
We recall that under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Enugu Airport was among those that received infrastructural facelift. Since then, not much has been done in that direction. The latest haphazard rehabilitation of the airport might have been responsible for its further deterioration. The governors’ appeal to the Federal Government to rehabilitate the airport is in order and the government should listen to them.
Since the aviation industry is known for its strict adherence to international best practices, government must ensure that the deteriorating facilities at Enugu Airport are fixed forthwith. The stakes in the industry are very high and there is no margin for error. These are issues that concern safety of air travelers.
The nation can earn much in foreign exchange if its aviation sector functions optimally. Since airports are usually the gateways to any country, the government should remodel our airports in order to compete with the best in the world. The state of a nation’s airports can boost its tourism and attraction of direct foreign investments. Ethiopia is a good example of an African country that has so much developed the aviation industry to the admiration of the world. It is worth pointing out that some viable airports in Europe and the United States command better economies more than some African countries.
What the Enugu Airport needs now is a comprehensive repair of its facilities. We strongly believe that the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, should make a difference. The rehabilitation of the nation’s aviation facilities must be undertaken in phases, with the international airports given priority. The Enugu Airport, together with those in Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and Kano fall into this category. Many of these airports still lack basic facilities like adequate runways, tarmacs and lighting systems as was highlighted by the South East governors. The Abuja Airport had to be shutdown not too long ago to undertake a rehabilitation of its runway. Work on the proposed second runway is yet to commence.
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Government must show commitment and provide the enabling environment for other stakeholders to operate maximally in the aviation industry. The frequent policy somersaults, backed by a lack of honesty of purpose, have terribly undermined our aviation sector over the years. It must address the rot in the sector.
Government must repair the facilities at the airport and be mindful of the widely held perception in the South East of a deliberate policy to neglect the zone in terms of infrastructure and do something positive to change the story. We welcome the reported Federal Government’s plans to carry out a comprehensive rehabilitation of the runway of Enugu Airport and urge it to do so without further delay.