THE much-anticipated reopening of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, AIIAE, took place on schedule on Sunday, August 30, 2020. But it ran into a controversy when it was discovered that much work is still required to be done before the remodelling project is completed.
The videos of construction scaffolds still adorning the main terminal building, the yet-to-be resurfaced roads within the hangar area, absence of equipment that will enable night flights and other ongoing finishing touches raised a lot of questions in the social media.
Some people felt scammed that after a year of closure the airport was reopened only to reveal a project that is far from completion.
People even complained that the N10 billion which President Muhammadu Buhari approved for the entire airport upgrade was “too paltry” to achieve a standard project. Fears are being expressed that the outcome might be too substandard for the airport’s certification by the regulatory authorities for international operations.
On the other hand, the leadership of the Igbo nation as symbolised by Dr. Nnia Nwodo, the Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo President General, appears relieved that flights can once again take off from the airport at all.
During the year-long closure, the users of the airport had to transit to Owerri or Asaba before boarding flights to Lagos, Abuja or out of the country.
We call for patience while the rest of the work on this project is being done. It may be wrong to compare the one year it took for the airport to be completed and that of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, NAIAA, which took only two weeks. The NAIAA project only concerned the construction of a second runway.
But the Enugu Airport involves the total reconstruction of the dilapidated runway and the airport’s general facility upgrade.
The completion deadline was also affected by the coronavirus pandemic lockdown.
We believe the reopening of the airport at this moment is auspicious as we enter the “ember” months which herald the Christmas season. It would be a disservice to the people to keep the airport closed when it is ready to resume normal daytime services. Reopening the airport at this time of general economic reopening is the right thing to do.
We call on the Federal Government to maintain the partnership that it struck with the South East Governors, Ohanaeze leadership and coalition of Igbo interest groups throughout the duration of the first phase of the project.
This is a unique and democratic model which we recommend for all government projects henceforth.
The involvement of the people in monitoring the progress of public works not only helps ensure quality and timeous delivery, it also boosts confidence in the goodwill of government towards the people.
With this partnership, the full completion of this airport is assured.