Hadi Sirika, Nigeria’s minister of aviation is promising Nigerian airport users that the Federal Government would deliver on reopening the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu before this Easter, contrary to fears recently expressed by the House of Representatives committee on aviation that the airport would not be ready after all.
The major south-eastern gateway was closed last August to undertake repairs and upgrade its runway at a cost of N10 billion, which was approved by President Muhammadu Buhari last October. Work on the airport’s upgrade started only after 34 days of its closure to the public. Key among the works are: the extension of its runway to 3,000 metres (or 3km) from its present 2,400 metres (2.4km), as well as extending its width to 60 metres from the present 45 metres.
Sirika, who visited the airport recently insisted that the Easter deadline was sacrosanct. His visit was based on reports two weeks after the House of Representative committee on aviation’s visit warned that the air terminal would not be ready going by what they saw on ground. The federal lawmakers urged the minister to “do everything possible to ensure that the runway is delivered before Easter.”
The minister said: “We will do this procurement and finish and deliver (the airport) before Easter (2020), by the grace of God. I am very insistent on or before Easter. I am very sure that we will meet the target. We’re working day and night to ensure that everything would be delivered before Easter.”
Meanwhile, the airport’s ongoing upgrade is going on without a perimeter fencing of the area, and rebuilding of some structures. The minister only said arrangements would be made to take care of those areas only after the runway must have been concluded.
Also, the aviation ministry is seeking an understanding with the management of FAAN and the Enugu State governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, to get water supply into the airport, as the current work at the international wing was subject to budgeting.
The above work (perimeter fencing and water supply) can only be provided for in the 2020 federal budget, which is already being threatened by heavy revenue shortfall due to drastic drop in oil prices. Experts had already warned that the 2020 Nigeria federal budget could face deficit of over N4 trillion. And that a second recession was staring the country in the face.
The aviation minister said the speed and quality of work on the Enugu airport were quite good, and showed the worth of money spent on the project. “So far, I am very pleased to see the level of work; and I think we are moving according to programme; I am impressed with the quality of work going on; especially on the design. The turning point (of aircraft) is of concrete as against asphalt, which improves operational efficiency, to ensure that where the loads are being deposited on the runway during turning is done very strong to withstand all the pressures and weight on the turning effect on the surfaces.”
According to him, the new design given to the Akanu Ibiam International Airport was very unique, as such could not be found elsewhere in Nigeria.
Sirika said the contractor had additional expansion joint which showed how meticulous they have been following the work, including making sure that when they expand, they will be greased in-between the system. “I am very impressed, to be honest we are working according to program. Everything is on course. We are happy.”