By Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Musa Adamu
Senate yesterday urged the Federal Government not to downgrade the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, as earlier threatened by the immediate past Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika.
It also urged the government to rehabilitate the runway of the airport for the safety of passengers and aircrafts, as well as in conformity with international aviation standards.
Similarly, the upper legislative chamber stressed the need to complete the new terminal building of the airport and put it to use by foreign and local airlines, adding that the Federal Ministry of Aviation and its agencies should develop a water source with the nearby Ekulu River for the use of the airport.
While urging the ministry to return the generating sets, allegedly removed from the airport to the one in Port Harcourt, on the orders of the immediate past Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, the Senate thanked the Enugu State Government for swiftly demolishing and ordering the relocation of the Orie Emene Market, shutting down the nearby abattoir and ordering the immediate removal of the broadcasting mast and other illegal structures on the approach of the airport.
The Senate’s resolutions followed a motion on “the threat to downgrade” the airport by Senator Victor Umeh (APGA, Anambra Central) and co-sponsored by 16 other senators during plenary.
Leading the debate on the motion, Senator Umeh, observed that the former Minister of Aviation, Senator Sirika, had threatened to downgrade the airport because of what he considered as imminent dangers posed to air travellers by the presence of a nearby market.
He also said that Sirika had expressed concerns over the presence of a state radio mast on the flight path of airlines that threatened the safety of incoming aircraft, an abattoir, which attracted large birds and exposed airplanes to the bird strikes; the location of a free trade zone and the decrepit state of the runway, hence threatening to downgrade the Airport.
He however, appreciated the concerns of the former minister over the safety of passengers and airplanes that were using the Airport, noting that the airport currently serves travellers from Enugu, Kogi, Anambra, Ebonyi, Benue, cross River and other adjoining states.
According to him, the former minister also asserted that Enugu is to the East what Kaduna is to the North, being the major connecting link to the South Eastern states.
While stressing that the economic importance of the airport to the South East could not be over emphasized, Umeh however, hinted that the Government of Enugu State had removed the structures that the Minister considered as major challenges hampering the smooth operation of the Airport.
He further argued that, rather than talk about downgrading the airport, the federal government should think of rehabilitating it to meet international standards.
The lawmaker expressed concerns that the Airport has only one runway which he said, is currently in bad shape because it has no alternative runway in keeping with international standard.
He also lamented that the runway of the Airport which was awarded to PW PLC was carried out without internal drains which was affecting the stability of the runway, making it to crack and develop pot holes.
In their various contributions, all the senators who spoke, supported the motion, urging that the airport should not be downgraded while also pressing that the facilities at the Airport should be upgraded to meet international standards.
In his remarks, the Deputy President of the President, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the plenary, stressed the need for relevant authorities in Aviation Ministry to speedy the upgrading of facilities in the airport.