By Uche Mbah
The Minister of Aviation Hadi Sirika has said that the Akanu Ibiam International Airport will be closed down by the Federal Government because of what he called safety concerns.
“I am afraid the Enugu Airport has to be closed down”, he announced.” I have told the governor that we have to move the Market, Free Trade Zone, and take the radio mast away so that we can move in and fix things and clear the runway so that we can improve on safety and save lives”.
He said he had discussed with the Federal Government for possible Downgrade of the Airport to Local status.
“We may downgrade Enugu Airport in terms of international status and I have discussed it with the Federal Government,” said Sirika.
With this, the unfavorable policy thrust of the current federal government came to a head since the upgrade of the airport under President Goodluck Jonathan, when Stella Odua was Minister of Aviation and Ngozi Okonjo Iweala was Minister of Finance. The then Governor Peter Obi was at the forefront of the upgrade. In fact, his efforts during the time of former president Olusegun Obasanjo yielded no result as Obasanjo was said to have categoricaaly refused to upgrade the Airport to international Status. Currently, Akanu Ibiam is the only International Airport in the South East and South easterners constitute the bulk of travelers through the Lagos Portal.
Since it became an International Airport, the Federal Airports Authority has been operating discriminatory tariff against it. Ethiopian Airlines flight from Enugu to Addis Ababa costs almost twice the fare from Lagos to Addis Ababa,. This was a deliberate disincentive due to high tarrifs imposed by the regulating and handling authorities on the airline which they were forced to pass on to the Passengers.
Since the Buhari administration came into power, the politics of repairing the runway has been put into top gear.