Senate raises alarm over Enugu airport’s runway

The Senate has raised the alarm over the dilapidated state of the runway of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport Enugu, warning that the facility is now a threat to the safety of air traffic passengers.

While debating a motion entitled ‘Need for Emergency Reconstruction of the Runway of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport Enugu’, several lawmakers called for a quick response by the Federal Government to the warnings on the facility.

Adopting the motion moved by Senator Chukwuka Utazi (Enugu-North), the Senate unanimously resolved to “urge the Federal Ministry of Transport and other relevant authorities to, as a matter of emergency, resurface and reconstruct the runway, and extend the length.”

The lawmakers also resolved that the Senate Committee on Aviation should investigate the design and construction of the airport.

Moving the motion, Utazi said, “The Senate is informed that while aboard an Air Peace flight from Abuja to Enugu, the pilot made a chilling announcement about the state of the runway of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport and enjoined passengers on board, who could get the necessary authorities to listen, to help in immediately setting about the resurfacing of the runway to forestall accidents as the potholes and crack pots marking the runway make take-off and landing a bumpy and frightening undertaking.”

The lawmaker recalled that the airport was the first in the eastern part of Nigeria, which was constructed before the country’s independence in 1960, adding, “It was only upgraded to the status of an international airport on August 24, 2013, long after the Port Harcourt airport was.”

Utazi said, “The Senate notes that the runway, before it was upgraded, was 2,400 metres in length and 45 metres in width, but after the upgrade, it was extended to 3,000 metres in length, which can now take medium to large size aircraft.

“The Senate is informed that a result of a technical appraisal that showed that due to the high water table of the airport, water percolates and gets trapped between the upper asphalt and bottom concrete, and this persistent retention of water weakens the asphalt and creates potholes and cracks as a result of the weight of landing aircraft, which are now heavier than the aircraft of the 1960s and 1970s.

“The Senate is informed that palliative works carried out in the last quarter of 2017 to create water drains embedded in the asphalt surface end to end have not solved the problem as the transition between the new and old asphalt makes the surface rough and bumpy.”

Adding that the airport also lacked approach lights at the two ends of the runway, which he said had necessitated that the airport be operated between 7am and 7pm, Utazi stressed that the nearness of the runway to the Orie Emene Market was attracting birds, which perch around refuse dumps and abattoirs.

The situation, he stated, was “awfully dangerous to aircraft engines, especially during take-off and landing.”

In his remarks after the debate, Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the session, said the South-East Caucus of the National Assembly had met with President Muhammadu Buhari over the state of the airport but the facility had yet to have any facelift.

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