Uche Usim, Abuja
Following reported plans by the Minister of State, Aviation, Hadi Sirika, to downgrade the Akanu Ibiam International Airport Enugu, over safety breaches by various stakeholders, players in the Enugu Free Trade Zone (EFTZ), at the weekend said they have met all certification requirements to attain safety compliant status.
They also expressed willingness to work with the Ministry of Aviation in addressing all concerns over the proximity of one of the units of the free zone to the airport.
In a statement to the media, the Enugu Power Free Zone Company (Enpower FZC) which manages the free trade zone called for cohesion among stakeholders not only to address fresh safety concerns at the airport, but to clear misconceptions over the well conceived aviation facility development and growth plans that informed location of the free trade zone close to the airport.
The statement came in reaction to media reports crediting the Minister of Aviation, Mr. Hadi Sirika, with threat that the Federal Government was considering downgrading the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, to local status and subsequently shutting it down over safety concerns.
Mr. 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.
Chairman of Enpower FZC, Mr. Emeka Ene, who stated that the reports of the minister’s comments have already triggered panic among international investors that have already shown interests in the free trade zone, said the company and Enugu State government are already working to address all concerns raised by the minister, including removal of the mast and market relocation.
He however clarified that the EFTZ which is the only such facility in the South East zone of the country is eminently certified compliant to Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), Annex 14 regulations for Aerodrome Safety and Height restrictions.
Independent checks however showed that the Enugu Free Trade Zone was approved by the Federal Government in 2015 and the registration and operating licenses issued by Nigerian Export Processing Zone Authority (NEPZA), to operate as a free trade zone following a rigorous evaluation process spanning over 7 years.
“The EFTZ, situated on two sites at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport and at the 9th Mile Area, was established since 2015 by the Federal Government and not the State Government as reported by the media, after 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,” Mr. Ene said.
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.
In providing details of safety compliance considerations taken for location of the free zone, he explained that Inner Approach length provided at the Enugu airport surpassed all existing lengths at other airports in the country, including Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt airports.