By Sumaila Ogbaje and Solomon Asowata
The Federal Government says it may downgrade Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu from handling international operations because of its inability to expand the runway.
Minister of State for Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, made the disclosure at the 6th Aviation Stakeholders Forum in Lagos on Friday.
Sirika said that there were some developments around the airport that posed security and safety threat to flight operations, adding that effort was on to address the challenges.
According to him, the state government decided to situate its free trade zone, market and radio mast too close to the runway which is against international safety standard.
“We have some issues there and I have met the governor three times to discuss the issue.
“As you approach Enugu, there is a market there, there is an abattoir and at the end of the runway, there is a free trade zone and as you know, Enugu is the Kaduna of the east.
“A lot of passengers from the eastern part of the country travel through Enugu airport.
The minister said that unless the market and the mast were removed, the government would have no option but to discontinue international flights into the airport.
He said that the government was committed to ensuring that all ongoing projects across Nigerian airports were completed before the end of the year.
He added that the government would also ensure that Kano, Port Harcourt and Enugu airports obtained the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) certification.
Sirika also disclosed that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari had completed 130 of the 157 projects it initiated in aviation sector within three years.
He explained that agencies like the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet), Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) and Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) had recorded a lot of progress during the period.
According to him, the new terminal projects in Lagos and Kano will be completed before the end of the year, while the Lagos project would be delivered earlier.
The minister explained that the airport was over stretched over the years because of the increasing number of passengers that traveled through the airport.
“Lagos airport was initially designed and built for 200,000 people but now accommodates and processes 8 million passengers which is grossly inadequate.