The federal government has again recorded a major landmark in the country’s aviation sector with the reopening of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu.
The reopening of the airport, on Sunday, came one year after it was closed to operations to give room for the reconstruction of the airport runway and the installation of key components that will make operations at the airport safe and secure.
Reconstruction works at the airport would have been completed earlier but for some logistics and the change in the contractor earlier awarded the contract.
During the one year period the southeastern airport was closed, people’s businesses suffered while many air travelers within the state and its environs went through hell as they were made to travel through bad roads to Owerri, Imo State, to connect flights to other parts of the country or even outside Nigeria.
Those who suffered most were the international business indigenes of the state who are known for traveling to places like China and Dubai to sell their wares and in return bring in commodities to sell.
The closure of the airport denied them this economic activity as foreign carriers like Ethiopian Airlines and Emirates giving them this service were forced to suspend flights to the Enugu airport.
Many indigenous air travelers from the state lost their lives and got robbed while traveling by road to their desired destinations. Besides this, the economic gains of the state and the aviation authorities made available through business generated from the airport was put on hold.
As the closure continued, notable citizens of the state became agitated and mounted pressures on the state government who in return cried out to the federal government through the minister of aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika to come to their aid by not only completing the reconstruction work but ensure its reopening.
Worthy of note was the role played by the Chairman, House Committee on Aviation, Honourable Nnolim Nnaji who coincidentally is from the state as he was continually on the neck of the Minister to deliver a more secure airport with a higher grade runway to the people of the state.
Even at a point when financial issues seemed to be hampering the work, the federal government of President Muhammadu Buhari approved a N10 billion special intervention fund for the reconstruction of the collapsed runway to be completed.
As the reconstruction work continued, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the government agency saddled with managing the airports with its officials, were given a matching order by the government to see to the completion of the work.
At a point, the minister, the FAAN officials and other top management of aviation authorities had to relocate to the coal city to personally supervise the completion of works at the airport.
The caliber of people from the government including ministers, members of the National Assembly, Governor of the state and the representatives of governors from the southeast region with traditional rulers who witnessed the reopening of the airport attested to the importance of the airport to people of the region. Many of those who spoke to the Crucial Moment had commended the government for keeping to its promise to reopen the airport.
No doubt, the reconstruction and the reopening of the Enugu airport will once again open up businesses around the state and its environs.
The Enugu airport reopening is another good feat achieved in its aviation policy. Other similar feats earlier achieved include the upgrade of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport runway, coming after years of neglect. Also worthy of mention is the recent decision of the government to enforce the principle of reciprocity in its dealings with foreign airlines.