By Louis Ibah
Concerned stakeholders in Nigeria’s aviation sector have criticised the decision of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to partially close the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu from yesterday December 14,2014 to January 4, 2018 for the maintenance of its spoilt runway.
Spokeswoman for FAAN, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu in a statement yesterday, announced the decision of the agency to commence a “palliative repair” on the runway of the airport which airline owners have repeatedly complained as posing threat to the takeoff and landing of aircraft.
Yakubu said during the repair of the runway, the airport would operate at half its capacity as flights would only be allowed into the airport between 7am and 3pm.
Aviation Roundtable (ART) has expressed worry on the timing of the shutdown of the airport for repair (the Yuletide season where traffic is at its peak) and they also faulted the decision to do a palliative work and not a total maintenance of the runway.
FAAN was also criticised for failing to disclose how much it was investing on the repair of the Enugu Airport runway.
“With effect from today December, 14 2017, FAAN will embark on a palliative repair on the runway of Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu,”said Yakubu.
She said the first phase of the work will commence on December 14 – 21, 2017, while the second phase will be as from December 27, 2017, to January 4, 2018.
“There will be skeletal operations at the airport while the work is ongoing as the runway will open for operations from 0700 hours local time to 1500 hours local time on the proposed dates,” said Yakubu.
“This is to enable the contractor have ample day-light working hours in order to obtain stable and even runway surface, while also completing the work within the stipulated timeframe,” she added. But aviation analysts, John Ojikutu and Olu Ohunayo who are also top executives of the Aviation Round Table (ART) told journalists that the palliative repair was a waste of the country’s scare resources.
“The palliative repairs can only sustain the landing of Boeing 737 aircraft weight and not for the landing of bigger aircraft that foreign airlines who are flying into the airport use,” said Ojikutu. “If FAAN does not want to continue to waste its scarce fund on the runway, or cause a disaster at the airport, it should prevail on the political interests that opened the airport to international flights to allow runway to be closed for a complete reconstruction and upgrade its Load Classification Number (LCN) from 50 to at least 80 if not 100.
A word is enough for the wise,” Ojikutu added.
“Before the rushed designation of the airport for international flight was implemented, was the strength of the runway not factored in the process?” queried Ohunayo.
“We had palliative repairs about twice if not thrice on Abuja runway first in 2010, and then in 2014/2015 before the 2017 total rehabilitation. Those repairs before the 2017 rehabilitation were a waste of resources and is that what we are planning to repeat for the Enugu airport runway?” he added.
But the FAAN spokeswoman however apologized to all users of the Enugu airport for whatever inconvenience the repair of the runway may cause them.