The federal government has announced that it would downgrade the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, for not meeting required safety standards for international operations.
By this development, Ethiopia Airlines will stop operations to the airport.
Minister of State, Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika disclosed this yesterday during the sixth stakeholders meeting in Lagos.
The minister said aside that the infrastructure at the airport did not meet given safety standards, from the dilapidated runway to absence of approach light and lack of enough water for fire cover, the location of an abattoir close to the airport, attracts birds to the airport.
He recalled that Air Peace flight, last week suffered bird strike but luckily the incident was effectively managed.
Sirika also pointed out that there were things the Governor of the State was expected to do so that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria. (FAAN) would provide critical infrastructure like the approach light which would enable flights to land in the night.
According to the minister, the governor has agreed to clear buildings at the flight path, relocate the market at Emene for broader approach, remove the masts that obstruct flight path and also allow FAAN to have access to the Ekulu River to use pipes to bring water to the airport.
At present, flights cannot operate at night because the airport does not have approach light, which ought to be installed at the two ends of the runway.
The airport also does not have enough water supply, which means that it may not service large body aircraft because it does not have adequate fire cover, as certain volumes of water are needed for the fire hydrants in case of emergency.
THISDAY gathered that at several meetings with the Enugu state government, FAAN had urged the state to clear the flight paths along the runway by relocating the residents along the flight area so that critical facilities can be installed to enable flights land at the airport at night and also remove hindrances on take-off and landing of flights.
Also, Sirika had met with the state government and stressed the need for the government to relocate the market at Emene Enugu, settle the residents that built structures on the flight path so that approach light could be installed at both ends of the runway.
Sirika also urged the governor to give approval to FAAN and also to provide the facilities that could support FAAN to pipe water from Ekulu River for the airport so that it would have adequate water cover. The state government was also asked to remove two masts on approach area to the airport to enable flights easily take off and land at the airport.
The Governor of the State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi during the courtesy visit by the Minister last year, had assured the minister that urgent action would be taken, but nothing was done till now.
Enugu State Govt Takes Steps to Rectify Anomalies
Following the safety concerns raised by Sirika and the FAAN, the Enugu State Government issued a press statement last night, detailing steps it had taken to address all the issues raised.
The statement read: "The Enugu State Executive Council has approved the immediate closure of Orie Emene Market (abattoir inclusive) to forestall tragic air accident at the Airport. Accordingly, the Chairman of Enugu East Local Government Area has been directed to effect the immediate closure of the market.
"Council also ordered immediate removal of all illegal structures encroaching on the land of the Airport. The State Executive Council had on 12th October, 2018 approved funds for relocation of the State Broadcast Mast on the approach of the Run Way to Okpatu Hill (Ugwu Rerenkwu) in Udi Local Government Area but the implementation of this project has been hampered by the disruptive activities of some youths in the community. Enugu State Government hereby directs immediate cessation of all hostilities against the project as any further interference will attract the full wrath of the law given that government has paid all the necessary compensation.
"The traditional rulers of Okaptu Communities and town union leadership are hereby called upon to ensure full compliance with the above directives."