Stakeholders in the Enugu Free Trade Zone (EFTZ) in Enugu State have declared willingness to work with the Ministry of Aviation in addressing all concerns over the proximity of one of the units of the FTZ with the Akanu Ibiam International Airport in Enugu.
Enugu Power Free Zone Company (Enpower FZC), which manages the facility development, stated in a media statement at the weekend that the need to work together in addressing safety concerns at the airport has become necessary to clear misconceptions over the well-conceived aviation facility development and growth plans that informed location of the FTZ close to the airport.
The statement came as a reaction to media reports crediting the Minister of Aviation, Mr. Hadi Sirika, with statements that the federal government was considering downgrading the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, to local status and subsequently shut it down on safety concerns.
Sirika is reported to have listed major safety concerns at the airport to include bad runway, state radio mast on landing approach to the runway, location of EFTZ at the end of the runway and threats of bird strikes from an abattoir at a nearby market.
Chairman of Enpower FZC, Mr. Emeka Ene, who stated that the reports of the minister’s comments have already triggered panic among international investors that have already staked interests in the free trade zone, said the company and Enugu State Government are already working to address all concerns raised by the minister, including mast removal and market relocation.
He, however, clarified that the EFTZ, which is the only such facility in the South-east zone of the country, is eminently certified compliant to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Annex 14 regulations for Aerodrome Safety and Height restrictions.
Independent checks showed that the EFTZ was approved by the federal government in 2015 and the registration and operating licences issued by Nigerian Export Processing Zone Authority (NEPZA) to operate as a free trade zone following a rigorous evaluation process spanning over seven years.
“The EFTZ, situated on two sites at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport and at the Ninth Mile area, was established since 2015 by the federal government and not the state government as reported by the media, after rigorous engagement with NEPZA, the Ministry of Investment and regulatory authorities under the Ministry of Aviation to ensure compliance to international free zone best practices and aviation regulations,” Ene said.
He said safety and quality audits conducted on the facility by federal government regulators recognised the importance of aviation safety and international compliance to proximity of the free trade zone.
“As a result of this engagement, the free trade zone provided for all relevant specifications of aerodrome approach distances, setbacks, RESA, height restrictions in compliance with NCAA and ICAO Annex 14 international aviation regulations. Although the Enugu airport is not a Category 2 airport, Enpower FTZ provided for setback and aircraft inner approach distances in compliance with a more advanced Category 2 airport,” he explained.