The Akanu Ibiam International Airport (AIIA) Enugu, one of the international airports in Nigeria, has been underutilized, closing by 6:00pm daily owing largely to absence of airfield lighting and approach light, Daily Trust can report.

This has stymied the capacity of the airport to generate revenue for the Federal Government unlike other major airports in Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt.

This emerged last week when a team of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) inspected the airport.

The inspection was coming a few days after the Southeast Governors’ Forum cried out to the Federal Government to intervene in the issue of the airport, especially the runway which, they said, is in a deplorable condition.

“The forum appreciated the Federal Government for the intervention on the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, but, however draws its attention to the deplorable state of the runway, the runway lights and the tarmac and called on the Minister of State for Aviation to visit the airport for an on the spot assessment and urgent intervention,” Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi said.

Daily Trust recalls that FAAN had in January this year temporarily closed down the airport for repair of the runway by extending it for safer landing by bigger aircraft like the Boeing 777 and A380.

But a recent visit by our correspondent showed that some sections of the runway are bumpy which has thus reduced the landing quality of aircraft.

However, according to the NCAA DG, Capt. Mukhtar Usman, this has not impeded on safety as the runway is still safe for landing by any type of aircraft. He hinted, however, that the runway may have to be shut down as was done at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja.

He said: “We came here by air and we landed except for the landing quality. There is a lot that can be done to improve on the riding quality of the runway and it is because of those failures that you see in some areas. Plans are on to carry out similar works that took place in Abuja runway to ensure longer life and better riding quality for the runway. We have some international flights coming to Enugu, some are three times a week.”

Another major issue with the airport is the inability of aircraft to land at night following the absence of Instrument Landing System (ILS), airfield lighting and approach lighting system.

However, provision has been made for this with the installation of the lighting system at the runway but the approach lighting which would signal to oncoming aircraft as it approaches the tarmac is yet to be installed as the right of way has not been secured.

The acting Managing Director of FAAN, Engr. Salisu Daura, giving insight on the planned installation of the ILS and airfield lighting system, said a clear distance of one kilometre was required to carry out the installation.

During the inspection, the team visited Orie Emene market and Methodist Church Nigeria Central School in Emene which are part of the structures that might have to give way for the installation of the improved landing system.

Daura who is also the Director of Engineering of FAAN, said many structures and buildings would have to be demolished “because we only have 420 meters instead of the one kilometre we need.”

“Safety is very paramount in aviation. You can’t have aircraft hovering so low over a populated area. Definitely certain structures must go,” he said.

“Without the lighting system, the airport will be more like a day light operation and therefore closing around six or seven with air field lighting in place, it can be extended till maybe midnight. This will definitely increase activities at the airport.”

He said the state has to intervene urgently to clear all impediments stalling the installation of the equipment.

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