President Goodluck Jonathan redeems his promise to remodel the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, to make it really international in flight operations
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Sep. 9, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
THE people of the south-east zone would forever be greatful to President Goodluck Jonathan for fulfilling his 2011 general elections campaign promises of making the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, an international airport as part of his plan to transform the South-East economy. On August 24, the first international flight of Ethiopian Airlines landed at the airport. This promise is being delivered in the south east zone through the transformational work going on not only at Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, but also at the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport, Owerri.
For the people of the region and its environs, it has been a long dream come true. Although the Enugu airport had, over the years, carried the tag of ‘International’ since it was officially designated on December 17, 2010 by President Jonathan, all hope of actually playing host to international flights had remained forlorn for the people of the region-until August 24.
This historic international flight, perhaps the first since the Civil War, is both symbolic and revolutionary. With this international airport, the South East Region of Nigeria can confidently say to the world ‘we are open for businesses! The region and its environs are, indeed, open for business. This inaugural flight is equally revolutionary as this singular development will certainly change the way of life of the inhabitants of the region, forever.
For a people known for their industry and enterprise, the opportunities which this international airport offers for the socio-economic development of the region are huge and boundless. With a large population of international businessmen and entrepreneurs, the zone could not have asked for anything better.
The multiplier effect of the value chain that would be created as businesses around the airport, city of Enugu and the region beats every imagination. The commercial offerings would not only boost the economy of the zone but also create thousands of jobs. The hospitality industry in the area is sure to witness a resurgence and boom.
Commerce, which is the major preoccupation of the people of the zone would begin to boom as the Onitsha Market and Ariaria International market, Aba, begin to play host not only to the local folks, but also to a wider international business community. This is also not talking about the huge opportunity for easy export of manufactured and agricultural goods. The local manufacturer in the remotest part of Aba and Nnewi would be exposed to the international markets as flights take off and land in Enugu from all corners of the globe. The possibilities are, indeed, endless.
Before now, people of the zone travelling to other African, Asian, European and American countries had to go through either Port Harcourt, Lagos, Abuja or Kano. The remodeled airport will end the endless agonies businessmen face to clear their goods from far-flung parts of the globe to either Lagos or Abuja and the task of clearing and moving them, mostly by road to the South East.
Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, finance minister, who witnessed the occasion, said that getting an international flight out of Enugu was a great achievement and had lots of economic benefits to the people in the South East. “I am happy and that is why I had to come inside the air craft to see it happening. Now businesses will be done more easily between these people and the outside world,” she said, adding that the government had, indeed, responded to the yearnings of the people by granting the request for an international airport that would link the South East to the rest of the world.”
Stella Oduah, minister of aviation, said the commencement of international flight in Enugu was a dream come true and a fulfilment of one of President Jonathan’s transformation agenda to the Nigerian people. She described it as an economic booster to the landlocked Enugu state and a fulfilment of the President’s dream.
Temple Udeh, president, Enugu State Traders Association, said that the commencement of international flights at the airport was a dream come true. “For years, we have suffered the inconvenience, the hardship, and borne additional cost of travelling to Lagos and Abuja to board international flights for our businesses outside Nigeria. But with this flight taking off from Enugu, that long journey and the added cost has ended. We commend President Jonathan for giving this to us,” he said.