FG releases N1.7bn for Akanu Ibiam Airport upgrade

*To demolish houses, market near runway
From Maurice Okafor, Enugu
The Federal Government has stepped efforts to upgrade facilities at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport in Enugu by releasing N1.7billion to the contractor handling the project.
It promised to release balance of the money for the completion of the project once the 2018 budget is passed by the National Assembly (NASS).
The cheering news was broken on Monday by the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika who was at the airport to assess the work being done by the contractor.
Sirika restated the commitment of the Federal Government to uplifting facilities at the airport to international standard, hinting that N1.7billion had been released to the contractor to continue work on the terminal wing of the airport.
He said that more funds for the completion of the work on the airport had been accommodated in the 2018 budget.
The minister who briefed the Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, of his assessment of the airport at the Government House, Enugu, said that the runway would be extended by an additional kilometre, from its present length of 2.5 kilometres to 3.5 kilometres.
He however cautioned that the encroachment of traders of local market known as ‘Orie Emene’ on the airport land was a threat to flight operations. He also condemned the increasing number of residential buildings close to the runway of the airport.
Sirika said that the last administration had counted only three houses of which it agreed to pay compensation, but now more buildings had been erected close to the runway in the last few years.
The minister added that the proposed site of the Enugu multi-million naira a�?Empower Free Trade Zonea�?, which foundation laying was performed by Governor Ugwuanyi in 2016 and the masts of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) Enugu and another mast of a radio station as constituting threats to airport operations.
He directed that all the structures should be removed from the airport viscinity.
Sirika also inspected airport facilities outside the airport and approved the construction of a dam at the Ava River to supply water to the airport.
He pleaded with Governor Ugwuanyi to asphalt the road leading to the Very High Frequency Omni-directional Radio Range (VOR) which is a few distance away from the airport.
His words: a�?The Federal Government has decided to expand the runway from 2.5 kilometres to 3 kilometres to accommodate more international flights and cargoes, but stopped midway because people built within 100 metres on the runway.
a�?We need to dam the river to enable us use the water to service the airport. The Orie Emene market is a security threat.
a�?There is an abattoir in the market that attracts vultures which portends danger to flights.
a�?There is a road leading to the Very High Frequency Omni-directional Radio Range (VOR) which is in terrible state. It functions 24 hours because it guides pilots in their flights. Without this, this airport cannot be operated.
a�?The road is 1.5 kilometres and we need to build it because it is impassable during the rainy season,a�? he said.
Sirika said that unless the security concerns at the airport were addressed, the certification of the airport to an international status would not be possible and asked the state government to do the needful to ensure that Enugu was given its rightful status.
Governor Ugwuanyi said that he would rise to the challenges and ensure that structures around the airport do not constitute a setback to the upgrading of the international airport.
He said that when the airport becomes fully operational as an international airport, socioeconomic and commercial activities in the entire South East zone would be on the high side.
Ugwuanyi appealed to the minister to officially write the state government on the issues militating against the smooth operation and upgrade of the airport to for necessary action.

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