With the commencement of flight operations by the Ethiopian Airlines at the recently upgraded Akanu Ibiam International Airport Enugu today, businessmen and other travellers from all the states of the South East as well as Edo and Delta now have the option of making their international travels through Enugu, rather than far away Lagos and Abuja airports as has previously been the case.
This much was the position canvassed by the General Manager, Corporate Communication, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, Yakubu Dati, while reacting to questions on the development. According to him, the operation of Ethiopian Airlines into Enugu will be the satisfaction of an enduring call from the people of the South East who have for many years clamoured for an international airport for the zone, which they believe will reinforce the resourcefulness of the people, who are known for their entrepreneurship and trade.
Continuing, he noted that, henceforth, businessmen and other travellers from Enugu, Aba, Abakaliki, Onitsha, Owerri, Umuahia and as far as Asaba and Benin will be saved the distress of travelling for hours to Lagos and Abuja to board international flights, trips that are sometimes fraught with problems, including dangers on the road as they fight for time to catch their flights to international destinations.
"Many of the passengers have lost their goods on transit as they convey them from these cities to their final destinations on their arrival from their overseas trips," he said.
Dati who went at length to explain the level of work done at both the domestic and international airports noted thus: "The Jonathan administration has fulfilled its promise of giving every part of the country equal opportunity to develop and realise its dreams. Few months ago, the President unveiled the domestic terminal at the airport and also laid foundation for the building of international terminal, which work is in progress." He went down memory lane to disclose that the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu was designed and built by former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme at the age of 26, adding that it is historical that his vision of many years ago is now being fulfilled.
"This Minister of Aviation has shown her determination to actualise the goals of the aviation master plan which the Jonathan administration has pegged its transformation agenda which objectives include giving every part of the country and every citizen the opportunity to grow to his full potential. With the international flight operations at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, a novel opportunity has been given to the people of the South East zone to expand their business horizon without stress and the inconveniences of having to travel far to board international flights," he said.
This same optimism was also shared by former Senate President, Senator Ken Nnamani. According to him, it's a new chapter of social and economic development not just for the state but for the entire South east region.
Nnamani who would not hide his pleasure at what has happened said thus: "This is a milestone for Enugu and we cannot down play it. Remember that Enugu was the capital of the old Eastern Region. So this development would open up not just Enugu but other surrounding areas." Commending the efforts of the Aviation Minister, he said: "This project had been in the budget of several administrations.
I commend the Jonathan administration for making this a reality and the Aviation Minister for bringing to pass the dream of several administrations. Planning is good but when it's not funded, it remains just that -planning. It's a good development indeed," he noted again as he rang off.
For Mr. Clement Udegbe, a Lagos based lawyer, the idea and action is very welcome. And like Oliver Twist, he asked for more. "It remains to give the South East zone a seaport that is worth their while, and Rail linkage to all state capitals in the South east. I don't fly always because of costs. I am more on the road, and the roads are a big challenge".
Travel expert, Ikechi Uko described the operation of international flights from Enugu airport as opening up a business hub which was latent in the past and predicted that other airlines from the Middle East and Africa would soon start operation from Enugu, thereby making the Coal City a sub-hub for international commercial flights for business. So, as operations begin today, the months ahead would tell if there would be continued songs of joy.