All is set for the official take-off of international flight at the newly upgraded Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, tomorrow, as Ethiopian Airline commences international commercial flights.
Towards this, the arrival and departure halls are ready, just as the screening checkpoint for the international wing of the airport.
All security agencies, such as customs, immigrations, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) as well as the State Security Service (SSS) are all on ground for the formal take off of international flight operations at the airport.
Meanwhile, a cross-section of Nigerians, who spoke to our reporter in Enugu, has expressed gratitude to President Goodluck Jonathan for ensuring that the dream of the people of the South-east to have an international airport came to reality. Some also feels the president needs to do more for the people.
Obinna, who works in the College of Medicine, University of Nigeria, said the take-off of international operations means a lot to our economy of the zone. “It means that our economy will boom. It will also save us the time and resources expended in going to Lagos and Abuja before one could travel abroad. I think it’s fantastic. I feel happy and I must say it is a welcome development.”
For Chief Dilim Okafor, chairman, Tracy Hotels Ltd, Awka, Anambra State, a frequent user of the Akanu Ibiam Airport, the commencement of international operations at the airport means a lot. “For the first time, we have access to the outside world. But we still expect bigger airlines. I understand it’s an Ethiopian airlines coming on Saturday. We expect airlines, like Emirates and others, because I am a regular traveler. I travel to Dubai, India, China, all through Emirates; not only me but also most of the Igbo traders; so the Federal Government should negotiate with Emirates, so they can come to Enugu too. It’s a big relief and that’s why everybody is hailing Mr. President for this effort, because there was a deliberate attempt to lock us up, but he decided to liberate us and we are happy.”
Beyond the airport, however, Chief Okafor said the South East also needs better roads. This, according to him, is “because if cargo flights land here, the goods have to be transported to Onitsha, Aba or anywhere. Through which road would this be? So road is another thing that must accompany this laudable effort of President Jonathan to Igbo.”
Evangelist Elliot Uko, President, Igbo Youth Movement, also commended President Jonathan for the airport. “We are excited about that, but we plead for the acceleration of work on other promises, like, functional seaport at Onitsha and Oguta. The keyword here is “functional.” Enugu will experience a new economic life with the international wing taking off. We are grateful to President Jonathan for fulfilling this one. We plead that he and his team accelerates on the other promises. We are grateful for that. We appreciate the positive impact the international airport will have on the economy of the South East. It is important to note that when we plead that campaign promises be fulfilled we are not by any means suggesting that the FG should address South East issues at the expense of other zones.”
An elder statesman, Chief Enechi Onyia (SAN,) has a different view. He said: “As far as I am concerned, this airport is not up to standard. I led a delegation to Obasanjo about this airport 10 years ago, and this is not what we asked for. I am disappointed.”
Asked if he was encouraged that at least something has been done, Chief Onyia said: “I am not interested on something being done. I will be interested that a good thing has been done. Once a good thing has been done, then I am interested. But if you deceive people telling them you are building airport and it is not what is expected, what do you want me to do? I am urging government to do its duty; that’s all. They have a duty; don’t beg them. They think these are amenities you beg for; that if they bring it to Enugu it is for Enugu people, it’s not true.
“The president of Nigeria is the president for the whole Nigeria; every Nigerian must be properly cared for. But Nigerians will always jubilate when such things are done. Thank God he has remembered us, they will say. The truth is that he should be remembering you every day. That is the authority you gave him. I believe in functional politics and functional administration.
“First of all, any political party that wants to govern a country must have a policy, a programme and they have to implement their programme. What is the programme? How are they implementing it? The truth is that we are deceiving ourselves, but history will record everything. We need to pursue a just cause; make sure that amenities are available for the citizenry.”