Legal and Judicial Affairs

Senate seeks quick upgrading of Enugu Airport

The Nigerian Senate has urged the Federal Ministry of Transportation and other relevant authorities as a matter of emergency, to resurface and reconstruct the runway of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu and also extend the length of its runway.

It also requested for a supplementary budget from the executive arm of government for its approval to ensure early completion of the project. These resolutions followed a motion, titled Need for emergency reconstruction of the runway of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, during plenary.

Senator Chukwuka Utazi who represents Enugu North Senatorial district in the National Assembly, sponsored the motion.

The state of the airport

In his Lead debate on the motion, Senator Utazi said that while aboard an Air Peace flight from Abuja to Enugu, the pilot made a chilling announcement about the state of the runway of the airport.

The pilot enjoined passengers on board who can get the necessary authorities to help in resurfacing of the runway to forestall accident as the potholes and cracks pot marking the runway make take-off and landing a bumpy and frightening undertaking, he said.

The lawmaker observed that the airport was the first in east of the Niger that was built even before Nigeria's independence and was only upgraded to international status on August 24, 2013, long after Port Harcourt Airport received similar status.

Senator Utazi further explained that the runway before it was upgraded was 2400 metres length and 45 metres width but after the upgrade, it was extended to 3000 metres length which can now take medium to large size aircraft.

A technical appraisal shows that due to high water table of the airport, water percolates and gets trapped between upper asphalt and bottom concreteThis persistent retention of water weakens asphalt and creates potholes and cracks as a result of the weight of landing aircraft which are now heavier than the aircraft of the 60s and 70s

The palliative works carried out in the last quarter of 2017 to create water drains embedded in the asphalt surface end to end have not solved the problem as transition between new asphalt and old asphalt makes the surface rough and bumpy.

The airport also lacks approach lights at two ends of the runway which has necessitated that the airport operates between 7am to 7pm (Local time) and the nearness of the runway to Orie Emene market attracts birds which perch around refuse dumps and abattoirs in the market that are awfully dangerous to aircraft engines especially during takeoff and landing, he stressed.

Also Contributing to the debate, Senator Sam Egwu talked on the need for the Nigerian government to pay urgent attention to the airport in view of its importance not only to the South East but the entire country.

Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe wondered why the airport was always not being considered among others for rehabilitation or upgrading, noting that it was shut for a long period about three years for possible upgrade which was never done.

Safety of air travellers

Also Senator Emmanuel Paulker warned that continued neglect of the airport might cause avoidable calamity and pleaded with the Nigerian government to take urgent action on the runway for the safety of air travellers.

The deputy senate leader, Senator Bala Na'Allah described the airport as technically unsafe for use and also urged the government to quickly bring it back to life to further boost the nation's economy.

The South East caucus in the National Assembly has met President Muhammadu Buhari over the state of the airport and thought it would have been upgraded by now going by the concerns shown by the president,the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu said.

Source: Voice of Nigeria