By Ike A. Offor
Palliative repair work on the runway of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, started on Thursday, 14 December, 2017. This caused some excitement in aviation sector, but not without criticism about its intention to carry out such works now, the busiest period of year.
Air Peace, a major carrier on the route has commended the Federal Government for the work.
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigerian (FAAN) had begun work on the runway with the first phase scheduled from December 14 to 21. This was written ont he website of FAAN.
Spokeswoman for FAAN, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu in a statement on Thursday announced the decision of the agency to commence a “palliative repair” on the runway of the airport which airline owners have repeatedly complained as posing a threat to the takeoff and landing of aircraft.
Mr Henrietta Yakubu said during the repair of the runway, the airport would operate at half its capacity as flights would only be allowed into the airport between 7am and 3pm.
But the stakeholders who are members of the Aviation Round Table (ART) have expressed worry on the timing of the shutdown of the airport for repair (the Yuletide season where traffic is at its peak) and they also faulted the decision to do a palliative work and not a total maintenance of the runway.
FAAN was also criticised for failing to disclose how much it was investing the palliative repair of the Enugu airport runway.
It could be recalled that the Senate Committee on Aviation had a tour of the airport and lamented bitterly about the poor state of he airport. The Senate committee recommended that the airport must be repaired and brought to the same standard of an international airport as found in other climes.
So, it should be recommended that the government listened to the recommendations by the Senate and ordered for the palliative repair works.
This move could not go without sharp criticism from citizens of the region, who condemned the timing of the repair works.
Some South East citizens have complained that the closure during the high season, when many sons and daughters of the region make the yearly holiday home-coming is conspiracy to take the economic benefits away from South East.
One critic, Mr Joseph Ikunna wrote on his Facebook wall, ” it is self-explanatory that it is intended to rob the region of the taxes to be paid to the airport”. He also said that it is also very painful and financially burdensome for South Easterners and others to use Lagos or other airports and make the tedious and dangerous journey home via the road.
It is very obvious that the police and army check points on the roads increase as one approaches the region of South East. And it has been lamented by Ohanaeze President General, Chief Nnia Nwodo that these checkpoints are merely used to extort money from passengers and vehicle owners from the region in a very shameless manner in broad day light.
So, Mr Ikunna has some reason to nurture such suspicions and fear for the safety and extortion of South Eastern road users by the men in uniform on our roads.
But aviation analysts, John Ojikutu and Olu Ohunayo who are also top executives of the Aviation Round Table (ART) told journalists that the palliative repair was a waste of scare resources.
“The palliative repairs can only sustain the landing of Boeing 737 aircraft weight and not for the landing of bigger aircraft that foreign airlines who are flying into the airport use,” said Ojikutu.
“If FAAN does not want to continue to waste its scarce fund on the runway, or cause a disaster in the airport, it should prevail on the political interests that opened the airport to international flights to allow runway to be closed for a complete reconstruction and upgrade its load classification number (LCN) from 50 to at least 80 if not 100. A word is enough for the wise,” Ojikutu added.
“Before the rushed designation of the airport for international flight was implemented, was the strength of the runway not factored in the process?” queried Ohunayo.