WE are worried over the conflicting reports concerning the safety of the runways and landing facilities at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu. The airport is being assessed for international operations.
The Joint National Assembly Committee on Aviation led by Senator Muhammad Adamu had, on a facility tour in October 2017, expressed deep concern over what it described as "infrastructural decay" at the Enugu Airport. Nearly one year later on September 3, 2018, the South-East Governors' Forum declared the airport's runways, tarmac and runways lightings "deplorable." They called on the Minister of State for Aviation, Alhaji Hadi Sirika, to visit the airport and assess the situation.
However, two major statutory institutions in charge of the aviation sector, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, barely three days after the South- East Governors had raised the alarm, cleared the Airport safe for operations.
Ordinarily, the assurances by the NCAA and FAAN should have put paid to worries over the safety of this airport because they have the technical manpower to deliver expert assessments. We are perplexed, however, that an airport runway reportedly full of potholes (as observed by two different concerned groups) and cannot operate night flights can be said to be safe for operations. This is more so as Air Peace Airline is set to launch its international operations to America, Europe and Asia with Enugu as its hub.
There is absolutely no reason for there to be conflicting reports on the safety or otherwise of the airport, especially when they are being repackaged to handle international flights. It is either an airport is okay or it is not.
Happily, the report of the Airports Council International, ACI, Africa, which in June 2018 sent a team of experts to assess the Enugu Airport for its Airport Excellence, APEX, compliance with the International Civil Aviation Organisation's ICAO, standards is being awaited. This will put the whole controversy to rest.
The conflicting signals being sent by stakeholders in the aviation industry is rather an unfortunate development. It portrays Nigeria as a country that is not confident in its own internal due diligence on vital economic assets such as airports. Nigeria should be in a position to own and operate airports in excellent standing to boost commerce and tourism, rather than engage in arguments that will require international bodies to mediate.
The Ministry of Aviation and its statutory agencies should also look into complaints that the Benin Airport and the second runway in the local wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos need urgent attention due to potholes.
Beyond the issue of safety, airports are gateways into Nigeria. They should be kept in excellent shape.