Archive for the ‘Akanu Ibiam International Airport’ Tag

THE GAINS OF ENUGU’S INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT   Leave a comment

“The last known international flight out of South-Eastern Nigeria, prior to the Ethiopian Airlines flight [on August 24, 2013] was the one that took Ojukwu to Abidjan in 1970.” –Bryan Chaut ‏

On Saturday, August 24, the recently remodelled Akanu Ibiam International Airport (AIIA), Enugu, received its first ever international commercial flight (Ethiopian Airlines), also a first for South-Eastern Nigeria. That single event therefore marked a cusp for the city and region! I commend the Jonathan administration for seeing this important project through.

Last year, I visited the city of Enugu twice and, with a good intra-city road network, an efficient cab service, and a booming business clime, I left with the impression that that city was ready for its next big thing. The international airport has come alive at just the right time to comprise such a big thing.

Indeed, Enugu State, the South-East and Nigeria as a whole stand to benefit a lot from AIIA. For one, the multiplier effects of AIIA will boost business and the service industry which will result in many jobs in that city and beyond.

Also, airlines pay charges to land planes at airports and, given its region-wide market, AIIA will bring in more foreign exchange into Nigeria which will be a plus for Nigeria’s economy.

In addition, planes often refuel at international airports and this will create another significant market for fuel in that part of the country. In fact, this is one more reason why we need fully functional refineries so as to maximise the gains from our crude oil considering given that foreign demand for it is falling.

Furthermore, Enugu’s international airport will boost investment and jobs. More investors will be attracted to the South-East region in general and Enugu in particular, especially with its huge potential in coal, because of increased accessibility occasioned by AIIA whilst businesses and banks will open outlets close to or at the airport and this will create more jobs. It was an appreciation of this fact that must have prompted President Jonathan to declare: “The South East Region of Nigeria, with this international airport, can confidently say to the world ‘we are open for business!”

Again, thanks to the international airport in Enugu, and the lucrativeness of its regional appeal, various airlines will certainly operate direct flights from different locations in Africa and beyond, to the city. Eventually, this will result in lower flight costs to Enugu and thus encourage more sons and daughters of Enugu and its environs to travel home more frequently.

We must equally note that AIIA is the first major Federal Government project completed in South-Eastern Nigeria for a long time. The implication of this is that it will help to quell the feelings of marginalisation which many South-Easterners still have and thereby boost national cohesion. In a statement following the landing of the Ethiopian Airlines flight in Enugu, Joe Obi, the special adviser to the Minister of Aviation on media said: “This historic international flight, perhaps the first since after the Civil War, is both symbolic and revolutionary. It symbolizes the end of an era where an entire region was almost shut out from the rest of the world, literally speaking, to one where the same enclave is now open to a new and exciting world of endless possibilities.”

Nonetheless, what can go wrong? As is often the case in Nigeria, mismanagement and poor maintenance will turn any good project into decrepit and relics into derelicts! This must not be allowed to happen to AIIA. A National Mirror September 21, 2012 editorial lamented “Nigeria’s nagging problem of decrepit airport infrastructure” and said: “Even at the flagship Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, local carriers manage only one runway due to the woeful failure of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to fix runway lighting on the second one.” As AIIA gathers steam, stakeholders must ensure that its infrastructure remains in good condition and regularly undertake maintenance and upgrades where necessary. Ultimately, AIIA itself should be able to generate enough revenue to guarantee its sustainable upkeep.

Another problem that AIIA should have provisions to forestall from scratch is that of power cuts. Earlier this year, a couple of incidents were reported with near-tragic landings caused by power cuts at MMIA but also at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja. In the case of MMIA, it was reported that the two generators serving the airport were in disrepair. Local stakeholders must not wait on the federal authorities to provide a stable source of power for AIIA. They should proactively explore alternative sources that guarantee uninterrupted power for the airport. As earlier stated, Enugu has great quantities of coal and, on August 19, President Jonathan said his administration plans to generate over 30 per cent of Nigeria’s electricity from the fossil fuel. Local stakeholders can thus leverage this plan to ensure that AIIA is powered by an alternative source like coal so as to guarantee that it doesn’t experience power cuts.

Meantime, there were reports that some landowners threatened to stop business endeavours at AIIA because they are still owed compensation by FAAN after their land was co-opted by the Federal Government in 2009 to expand the Enugu airport into its present status. This must be nipped in the bud so that AIIA can be off to a smooth, flying, start.

Long live the Akanu Ibiam International Airport! GOD bless Nigeria!