The Nigerian Senate has directed its committee on Aviation to carry out a holistic investigation into the contracts awarded for the design and reconstruction of the runway of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu.
The resolution was reached after deliberation on a motion sponsored by Chukwuka Utazi (PDP, Enugu North), who called for emergency reconstruction of the runway.
Mr Utazi lamented that the airport is the first airport east of the Niger that was built even before Nigeria’s independence and was only upgraded to the status of International Airport on August 24, 2013, long after Port Harcourt Airport was.
He explained that due to high water table of the airport, water percolates and is trapped between the upper asphalt and bottom concrete. He said this persistent retention of water weakens asphalt and creates potholes and cracks as a result of the weight of landing aircraft which are now heavier that the aircraft of the 1960s and 70s.
He said the airport also lacks approach lights at two ends of the runway which has necessitated that the airport operates between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. and the nearness of the runway to Orie Emene market attracts birds which perch around refuse dumps and abattoirs in the market that are dangerous to aircraft engines especially during takeoff and landing.
Eyinnaya Abaribe (PDP, Abia), while contributing to the motion, described the airport as an unsafe place to land and take off. He stressed the need for thorough investigation into funds that have been used to manage the airport.
“We need to investigate who was in charge. They have been upgrading it for a while; it shouldn’t take up to 10 to 15 years to upgrade,” he said.
In his remark, Francis Alimekhena (APC, Edo) condemned the lackadaisical attitude of the federal government to challenges that pose danger in the country.
“I don’t know why Nigeria wants to wait till the last day before we act. If the runway is bumpy, it shows that there is danger,” he said.
He further expressed worry at the kind of signal being sent out to the international community and suggested that the Senate Committee on Aviation summon the Minister of Aviation to speak on the issue.
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu described the state of the airport as worrisome.
“When you are flying out of the Enugu airport or you’re landing, people are usually advised to say their prayers. I think we have a problem of how we respond to disasters. We allow disasters to happen before we act. I was informed that even before the killings in Jos, there was security report that it was going to happen but nobody took it serious and it eventually happened,” he said.
He added that the South-east caucus had discussed this with President Muhammadu Buhari and the president showed concern.
He also stated that the problem with the Enugu airport was “just a fraud on the government. It was poorly constructed.”
The Senate also urged the Federal Ministry of Transport and other relevant authorities, to, as a matter of emergency, resurface and reconstruct the runway of the airport and also extend the length of the runway.