Deji Elumoye in Abuja

Senate, Thursday, urged the Federal Ministry of Transportation and other relevant authorities, to as a matter of emergency, resurface and reconstruct the runway of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, and also extend the length of the runway.

It also requested supplementary budget from the executive arm of government for its approval to ensuring early completion of the project.

This is sequel to a motion titled “Need for emergency reconstruction of the runway of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu” sponsored by Senator Chukwuka Utazi (Enugu North), during plenary.

Leading debate on the motion, Utazi informed the Senate that while on board an Air Peace flight from Abuja to Enugu, the pilot made a chilling announcement about the state of the runway of the airport.

According to him, “the pilot enjoined passengers on board who can get the necessary authorities to listen to help in immediately setting about the resurfacing of the runway to forestall accident as the potholes and cracks on the runway make take-off and landing a bumpy and frightening undertaking”.

The lawmaker observed that the airport was the first in east of the Niger that was built even before Nigeria’s independence and was only upgraded to international status on August 24, 2013, long after Port Harcourt Airport received similar status.

Utazi said that “the runway before it was upgraded was 2400 metres length and 45 metres width but after the upgrade, it was extended to 3000 metres length which can now take medium to large size aircraft”.

“A technical appraisal shows that due to high water table of the airport, water percolates and gets trapped between upper asphalt and bottom concrete and 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 than the aircraft of the 60s and 70s

“The palliative works carried out in the last quarter of 2017 to create water drains embedded in the asphalt surface end to end have not solved the problem as transition between new asphalt and old asphalt makes the surface rough and bumpy.

“The airport also lacks approach lights at two ends of the runway which has necessitated that the airport operates between 7am to 7pm and the nearness of the runway to Orie Emene market attracts birds which perch around refuse dumps and abattoirs in the market that are awfully dangerous to aircraft engines especially during takeoff and landing”, he stressed.

Utazi said the South East is the last, among all the geopolitical zones of Nigeria, to have an international airport.

He, however, lamented that “the condition of the runway of the airport is disheartening and it would not only expose users of the airport to harm and avoidable accident, it would also discourage international airlines and interests from using the airport”.

Contributing, Sam Egwu ( Ebonyi North) stressed the need for the federal government to pay urgent attention to the airport in view of its importance not only to the South East, but the entire country.

In his remarks, the deputy senate president, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the plenary, said the South East caucus in the National Assembly had met with President Muhammadu Buhari over the state of the airport and had thought it would have been upgraded by now going by the concerns shown by the president.