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Why Land Ownership Tussle May Delay Reopening of Enugu Airport

-By Adeniyi Onifade

There are serious indications that the current land tussle between the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria and a private estate developer may hinder the expected reopening of a portion of Akanu Ibiam International Airport

The current land tussle is said to be delaying the repair works and reopening of the airport.

Reports suggest that the land contest between a private estate developer, J.J Emejulu, and Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), has lately festered, with fresh litigations now in the offing.

Taking cognizance of the relevance of the airport to the transport sector and its relevance to economic and national development, concerned stakeholders in the region have expressed readiness to rally behind FAAN and timely completion of the project.

The land dispute is said to be based on a series of court cases in which J.J. Emejulu is seeking to exercise ownership right over spaces of land in the vicinity of the airport.

Capt. Hamisu Yadudu

Sources at the airport hinted that the disputed land is at the take-off end of the airport, and would breach safety headroom for planned extension of the runway.

In response to inquiries on the encroachment, the Chairman of House Committee on Aviation, Nnolim Nnaji, said nobody would stand in the way of reopening the airport as scheduled, warning those fighting for land to stop sabotaging the interest of the Southeast zone.

Also, the erstwhile President of Southeast and Southsouth Professionals, Emeka Ugwuoju, advised all parties in the land dispute to concede their personal stakes to the public interest.

Ugwuoju said the ongoing rehabilitation and upgrade of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport remain strategic to the economy of the region.

He said all government institutions and facilities are built on land acquired from original owners in public interest. He wondered why acquisition of lands for development of critical development infrastructure would be a major issue in Enugu State.

He stated that anybody taking actions that would affect the reopening of the Enugu airport is an instigated agent working against the people of the entire southeast region of the country.

Recall that the Federal Government recently approved the sum of N10 billion for the rehabilitation of the airport. The airport was in August shut down for urgent repairs following safety concerns over the damaged runway.

FAAN had prior to the closure said the move was aimed at resolving the existing safety and security concerns to flight operations.

Though December completion date was earlier fixed, delays in the rehabilitation had caused many to raise doubts on the commitment of the Federal Government to fix the airport.

Managing Director of FAAN, Capt. Hamisu Yadudu, expressed satisfaction with the relocation of the Orie Emene market, abattoir, and the dismantling of the Enugu State Broadcasting Service (ESBS) Radio/TV Mast to pave way for the rehabilitation.

Yadudu disclosed that “the required land FAAN wants to protect is secured” for safety and security, adding: “we are happy with that and ENPOWER Free Trade Zone is also happy that with the remaining land, they can still go ahead with their initiative and develop the land.”

A construction firm, PW Limited, has been deployed to reconfigure and reconstruct the runway to accommodate wide body aircraft including the Boeing 787 and Dreamliner series.

National Aviation Management Agency (NAMA), also announced the commencement of work on airfield lighting and safety systems as well as on modernization of the terminal building. And new reopening deadline was fixed for April 2020.

The Akanu Ibiam is an airport serving Enugu the capital city of Enugu State of Nigeria, and nearby cities, such as Abakaliki, Awka, Onitsha, Nnewi, Afikpo, Okigwe, Nsukka, Ugep, Orlu, Idah, Otukpo and Ogoja.

The airport was closed on February 10, 2010, by the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) for the first phase of major renovation and expansion works.

Later, it was re-opened on 16 December 2010, but the second and third phase of the construction work is still ongoing. The airport is being prepared for its new status as an international airport.