After months of contemplation, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has finally closed the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu for the rehabilitation of its runway and provision of airfield lighting.
The decision was disclosed in a statement FAAN’s General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu issued yesterday, stating that the airport would be shut effective from August 24.
The statement said the agency “has notified airlines and passengers about the closure. Effective 00:00 on 24th August, 2019, the runway at Akanu Ibiam International Airport in Enugu will be closed for major repairs and works on the airfield.”
The statement added that the decision to close the airport was aimed “at resolving the existing safety and security concerns to flight operations. A date to reopen the runway will be communicated in due course.”
Reacting to the closure, the Chairman and CEO of Air Peace, a major domestic carrier that operates at the airport, Mr. Allen Onyema commended the federal government for the decision to close the airport.
He explained that it was necessary “to ensure safety of flight operations to the route. The management and staff of Air Peace wish to commend the federal government for the decision to close the Akanu Ibiam Enugu International Airport in order to allow proper repair and maintenance of the airports runway which has given us serious safety concerns.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Air Peace is fully and totally in support of this decision. Though the decision will affect the traveling public and, of course, the airline, we place the safety of the flying public, our crew and equipment above any commercial benefits,” Onyema said.
He urged the government to go all out to put everything in place, within the period of the closure that would make the airport rank among the best international airports in the country.
“We plead with the federal government to make the airport a 24 hours flight operations airport by improving the night landing infrastructure.
“We will not fail to thank the federal government for the appointment of Capt. Salisu Yadudu as the Managing Director of FAAN. His appointment is a testimony to the federal government’s resolve to put result driven persons at the helm of its agencies.
“Air Peace is not alone in this thought. Since his coming, airlines have started enjoying the services that would definitely improve the standards in the industry.
“We thank President Muhammadu Buhari for his resolve to attend to the infrastructure decay in the industry,” Onyema said.
Meanwhile, the Enugu State Government has pledged to provide every support that FAAN needed to ensure that the rehabilitation work at the airport was completed as planned.
An official of the state government told THISDAY that as directed by the former Minister of State, Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika and FAAN, the state government “has already relocated the Emene market so that the agency could install approach light at the two ends of the runway.
“It had also removed masts that were hitherto located at the flights paths in addition to relocating people who built houses at the airport pathways,” the official said.
For several months, pilots had complained about the undulating runway, which had damaged the tyres of airplanes that use the airport.
But the closure would adversely affect travellers because the airport, which is the busiest in the South East, serves many states, including Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi and parts of Abia state.