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AIIA: S’East Business leaders’ decry rising marginalization on transport infrastructure

The recently announced intent by the Federal Government to shut down the only international airport in the South East of Nigeria, the Akanu Ibiam International Airport (AIIA), Enugu, has attracted the anger of the South East Business Leaders.
In an interview with one of the Executive member who pleaded anonymity in Onitsha, he decried what he described as rising official neglect in delivery of transportation infrastructure in the entire region.
He said “With reference to the unexplainable delays in announcing the concessionaire of completed Onitsha River Port, poor development of Port Harcourt Seaport, Calabar Seaport, Warri Seaport, silence on standard gauge rail scheme from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri and most recently, the threat to shut down Enugu International Airport, we are beginning to see the handwriting of marginalization in South East economic and social development agenda of the federal government”.
“I was at Awka when the Vice President came last year and assured us that the Onitsha River Port will be operational before the end of the year. This is May 2019, nothing is happening there more than six months on.
“Today, every businessman and woman is forced to import or export through Lagos with the associated risks and costs and this is what we can comfortably do here in Onitsha but the Federal Government has continued to seat on it.
According to him, “The South East Business Leaders will not in any way tolerate any move to shut down Enugu Airport as recently hinted by the Minister of State for Aviation. Rather than award a contract for the renewal of failed portions of the airport runway which is riskier, the Federal Government is more concerned on demolishing age-long markets and small businesses where many poor Nigerians are making their daily bread.”
Recall that weekend, the Federal government announced intention to downgrade the AIIA, Enugu from its international status to a local airport following safety concerns from airlines.
Minister of State for Aviation, Mr. Hadi Sirika, who stated this at a Stakeholders Forum held in Lagos further revealed that the government was also considering a temporary shutdown of the Enugu Airport to address safety challenges raised by airline operators flying into the airport.
The Minister averred that “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.”
He went further to list what he described as key 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.