I remember with nostalgia the closure of Akanu Ibiam International Airport Enugu for repairs in August last year without prior or immediate financial allocation for it by the Federal Government. The action paralysed air travel in the region, especially those embarking on international travels from the South-East region, who had enjoyed international travels from the airport after its upgrade to international standard during President Goodluck Jonathan administration.
The South-East people who were mostly affected by the closure lamented, alleged, complained, insinuated, cursed, suffered and even accused President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration of being insensitive to their plight.
Others who took to the social media platforms alleged that the closure of the airport for repairs without any budgetary allocations for it was deliberate and a strategy by President Buhari administration to cripple the Southeast economy, knowing full well that the airport is the only international airport in the Southeast region, many years after the Nigerian civil war.
Many also blamed and accused Igbo political leaders of being docile and nonchalant over the closure of the airport. Yes, don’t blame them. Their fears and complaints in this direction are understandable and genuine. Theirs were a case of a child who was crying that the food that was given to him was too small; all of a sudden a dog takes it away from him.
So, it was not surprising and unexpected the mixed feelings, spontaneous and aggressive reactions that trailed the closure of the airport for repairs last year. The closure since last year has truly and indeed affected economic activities, especially the hospitality industry in Enugu state and its environs.
While tongues wagged and tempers rose over the closure and delayed commencement of the repairs, Enugu State Governor, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, known for his taciturnity and administrative tact was never heard complaining or shouting on top of his voice like others, who had always believed that the only way to get things done in the region is by being antagonistic to the Federal Government and fighting dirty in the media especially on social media platforms.
Ugwuanyi was calm, diplomatic and proactive in his several engagements before the commencement of the airport repairs. Findings revealed that he worked assiduously behind the scene to facilitate the release of the N10b by Federal Government to repair the airport.
This was before and after the Southeast Governors and other political, cultural and religious leaders of Igbo extraction met severally at Enugu Government House to discuss the airport repairs and other issues affecting the region and later visited President Buhari to appeal for the release of fund for the airport rehabilitation.
Igbos were happy when funds were released and repair works commenced at the airport. Knowing how important and strategic the airport is to the state and entire Igbo race at home and abroad, Ugwuany visited the airport often to monitor the spate of work.
He took it upon himself to provide solution to other challenges at the airport. These include the 120 meters Enugu State Broadcasting Service (ESBS) mast at Ngwo, which been interfering with the aircraft navigational facility. The mast has been a major safety problem, even during and after the last repairs and upgrade of the airport to international standard, which didn’t stand the test of time, due to shabby execution of the contract.
The ESBS mast should have been relocated during the upgrade of the airport to international standard, but it was glossed over then by the government. To ensure that the mast does not continue to pose safety threat to the airport navigational facilities, Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi spent millions of Naira to relocate the mast from Ngwo to Okpatu in Udi LGA. The governor also constructed 1.3 km asphalt road to the airport navigational facility.
He provided finance for the upgrade and refurbishment of existing toilet facilities in the terminal building. This includes the installation of sensor sanitary sittings such as contactless automatic taps and flush systems, baby changing facilities, handicapped toilets, air conditioning and ventilation. He relocated the Orie Emene market that was situated close to the airport before.
When it was announced that the airport rehabilitation has been completed and would be reopened for use on August 30, 2020, many people heaved sigh of relief as they look forward to using the airport again after its closure for repair one year ago. Some were cynical about the possibility of reopening it as scheduled, promised and announced.
Behold and to the disappointment of the doubting Thomases, the airport was reopened on August 30, 2020 as promised. While many in attendance at the reopening ceremony commended the untiring efforts and sacrifices of the Federal Government and Governor Ugwuanyi in ensuring the completion and reopening of the airport as promised, some social media e-rats mostly of Southeast extraction, instead of commending the efforts of the governments, have taken to the social media platforms with pictures of some outside parts of the Enugu Airport terminal building that are still undergoing rehabilitation. Their arguments were that the airport is yet to be completed and why the rush and fanfare for the reopening.
These calibres of people are the true mischief makers and enemies within. They are those that never see anything good in President Buhari and Ugwuanyi’s governments. They are those who never believed that the airport will be rehabilitated in the first place, talkless of reopening it as promised. They are the real enemies of progress and the Igbos. They are cynics and sceptics, who masquerade on social media platforms as Igbo patriots and leaders, whereas they are nothing, but enemies within.
Are they saying that they are not aware of the fact that the major reason the airport was closed for repairs was because of its dilapidated runaway and poor navigational facility and not the buliding terminal?
Now that work has been completed on the runway and navigational facility and has been put to use, how does the ongoing renovation works on the terminal building a major problem at the airport?
Does the aircraft takes off or lands on the terminal building or runway? It baffles me what some people stand to achieve or gain by being mischievous.
The good news is that the airport runway, navigational facility and others are in good shape now and the airport has been reopened for flight operations, while minor and finishing repairs are ongoing outside the building terminal. These do not take away the fact that the airport is operational and safe now.
Are the social media critics saying that the people of Southeast have not waited enough for the reopening of the airport one year after its closure? What exactly do these mischief makers want and who are they working for?
In aviation sector, what is key is the state of the aircraft and its personnel, then the runway and navigational facility. The terminal building is secondary, when the issue of safety of the airport is at stake. Rehabilitation of airport terminal building has never been an impediment to flight operations across the globe. Why are these social media miscreants seeing that of Enugu airport differently.
While the people await the completion of the minor repair works outside the airport terminal building, flights have commenced full operations at Enugu Airport after the official reopening. The people are grateful and happy with Governor Ugwuanyi’s administration and the Federal Government for the rehabilitation of the airport when it mattered most.
The hired social media rats can continue their rantings on their social media accounts with sponsored data. That is what they were hired for. Who cares!!! After all, talk is cheap and those talking the talk are entitled to their views, which in most cases amount to nothing in a situation like this.
Added to the reopening of the domestic wing of the Enugu airport was the cheering disclosure during the event by the Minister of Aviation, Hon. Hadi Siriki that President Buhari’s administration will soon complete the Cargo terminal of the airport.
He said that the cargo airport is highly needed in the Southeast zone to alleviate the challenges experienced by people of the zone in importation of large good and services.
He said: “the Federal Government has delivered the projects of rehabilitating the runway and other facilities in Akanu Ibiam International Airport on time and budget and will focus on delivering the Cargo terminal and international terminal building and many more.
“Just before I left office for Enugu for this reopening of this Airport, I approved and released the sum of N1b to continue work in the international terminal building.”
What else do the social media busybodies want President Buhari’s administration and Ugwuanyi’s government to do about the Enugu airport that they have not done and still doing. Both governments and leaders have done well in this regard and deserve accolades, not social media armchair criticisms for their concerted efforts in the rehabilitation and reopening of the Enugu airport for use.
…Urama, writes from Emene, Enugu