The Nigerian Senate Thursday moved against the federal government plans to downgrade the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu from its international status to a local airport following safety concerns.
The Senate during its plenary resolved that the federal government should “not consider downgrading” the airport as a matter of urgency.
“This airport is strategic in its location,” Shehu Sani, the lawmaker currently representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District, said during the plenary. “I fully support this motion, the airport (Akanu Ibiam) should not be downgraded.”
A similar opinion was also shared by Barnabas Gemade, the senator representing Benue northeast senatorial district.
Nigeria’s Minister of State for Aviation Hadi Sirika on May 17 said the federal government is considering to downgrade the airport and a temporary shutdown of the Enugu Airport to address safety challenges raised by airline operators flying into the airport.
“We have issues with the Enugu Airport and we may downgrade Enugu Airport in terms of international status and I have discussed it with the federal government,” said Sirika.
Sirika listed the major challenges hampering the smooth operation of the airport to include the poor state of the airport runway, the presence of a state radio mast on the flight path of airlines that threatens the safety of incoming aircraft, the siting of a Free Trade Zone at the end of the runway, as well as incessant bird strikes affecting airlines and occasioned by the presence of an abattoir at proximity to the airport.
Sirika said he had held discussions with the Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwanyi on the need to relocate the market, pull down the radio mast and relocate the Free Trade Zone in the interest of the safety of aircraft and passengers.
The lawmakers resolved that instead of a downgrade or shut down, the federal government should “take steps to complete the new terminal building” of the airport and ensure it is”put it to use by local and foreign airlines.”
Ugwanyi had since ordered the relocation of Orie Emene Market, shut down the nearby abattoir and ordered the immediate removal of the broadcasting mast and other illegal structures on the approach of the airport.