Lagos — The Minister of Aviation, Mr. Babatunde Omotoba, will today flag off the rehabilitation and upgrade of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, Enugu State.
The airport, which was closed temporarily on Saturday for repairs, will be closed to traffic by January next year and airlines that operate to the airport will start using Sam Mbakwe Airport, Owerri, Imo State, as an alternative.
THISDAY learnt that the runway, which is 2,400 meters long, will be extended by 600 metres to make it 3000 meters or three kilometres and the width would be extended from the existing 45 metres to 60 metres.
When completed, it is expected that the runway would be wide enough to accommodate wide-body aircraft.
It is also expected that with its new status as an international airport, the airport would in future be designated for international operations.
The General Manager, Public Affairs of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Mr. Akin Olukunle, told THISDAY that the runway rehabilitation and extension contract was awarded to PW Limited and it is expected to be completed in 12 months from the day work starts on the project.
The cost of the project, which is N4.13 billion, was approved by Federal Executive Council (FEC) and would include extension and asphalting and marking of the runway.
According to him, this is part of the restructuring programme being embarked by the Ministry of Aviation and FAAN for the total rehabilitation of airport facilities in the country.
Last year, the Yar'Adua Administration upgraded the Enugu airport to international status in tandem with the new policy of having at least one international airport in every geopolitical zone of the country.
It is expected that chieftains of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would accompany the Ministry to the flag off ceremony as the South-East caucus of the party will be holding a meeting in Enugu same day.
THISDAY also learnt that work started on the Enugu airport on Saturday and the runway was closed to traffic from morning till 4.00 pm.
FAAN assured users that the airport would not be closed until after the new year because of the influx of traffic to the airport during the Yuletide, when airlines would increase their frequency to the South Eastern city.
Aviation expert, Chris Aligbe, commended the effort and said the upgrade of the airport was overdue because Enugu is the fourth busiest airport in the country, which deserves more attention than it is getting from the concerned agencies.
He also suggested that the international flights should be designated to international airlines because the airport is situated in the business hub of South-East.