Chinedu Eze

The Enugu state government has failed to provide land for the installation of safety critical landing aids at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu.

The state government had in March, assured the Minister of State, Aviation, Hadi Sirika, that it would clear the area where approach light and other equipment would be installed to upgrade the airport to operate night service.

But on Wednesday a team led by the Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Muhtar Usman and the acting Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and Director, Engineering Services, Salisu Daura, inspected facilities at the airport and said landing aids would only be installed if the land was cleared.

Usman explained that the two ends of the runway must be cleared for the installation of approach light, saying because the runway was recently extended and expanded, those who occupy the airport land must be removed before the equipment would be installed.

To extend operating time for the airport from 6:00 am to 12:00 midnight, the new equipment must be installed, which will enable the airport to fully serve international flights.

Currently only Ethiopia Airlines operates to Enugu airport but there are indications that Qatar Airways, Emirates, Etihad Airways and Air Peace want to operate international destinations from the airport if the facilities were installed.

The Director General of NCAA said all the equipment had been procured to be installed at the airport but without clearing the land the equipment may not be installed and may continue to rot.

“To keep an airport open for 24 hours a day requires a lot. You have to have all the lightening and equipment to ensure it operates at night. There should be landing aids to ensure safety in terms of landing. Security and adequate fire cover must be provided. Personnel and training of personnel must be put in place.

“We saw during our tour that the instrument landing system, the approach field lighting system have been acquired by government but the only problem is the deployment. As a result of the extension of the runway, you need to put all those aids in place. Also, it is not under the purview of government to make space available; it has to do with the state,” Usman said.

He said the federal government through the agencies have been talking with the state government to make space available so that all the safety equipment required to make this airport functional are put in place and contacts have been made up to the highest level in aviation and in the state, which is the state government and the Minister of State Aviation.

“It is not within the purview of aviation to determine when the equipment would be installed because it is completely under the control of the state to provide the state, so it will be very difficult for us in aviation to give you specific time. Unfortunately, we do not have much option on this; we have to work as a team. The state is also a major stakeholder in this and we will very much appreciate the cooperation of the state government to make this available because one of the complaints is unavailability of water.

“FAAN is willing to dam the Ekulu river to make the water available at the airport, so we are still appealing to the state to do whatever is necessary, maybe even the South East governors can help in asking the state to assist in making all these available for us to be able to deploy these facilities to ensure adequate and safe operations at the Enugu airport,” he said.