The company handling the reconstruction of the runway of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu PW, has complained about the hostility by the host community at the quarry site where it sources gravel and called on the state government for protection.
The company said its trucks conveying materials from the site were usually blocked by people from the communities, thereby frustrating the movement of the vehicles and progress of work at the airport.
The complaint was made recently when the House Committee on Aviation summoned the aviation agencies to explain why British Airways and Air France diverted their flights from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos to Accra and Cotonou respectively.
However, the contractor, PW and consultant, KEFE Engineering Limited, assured that work at the airport would be completed at the targeted date, noting they were working assiduously not only to meet the completion target, but to also deliver a runway that would be of international standard and that flight would resume before Easter, as promised by the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika.
During the interactive session with the chief executives of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, (NAMA), Captain Akinkotou, and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, (FAAN), Captain Rabiu Yadudu, the Chairman of the Committee Hon. Nnolim Nnaji expressed dismay that the development could force the aforementioned airlines destined to Lagos to land outside the country.
“That was embarrassing and does not portray us in good light. I thought we had passed this stage. In our last oversight in Lagos, you people assured us that with category three instrument landing system, (ILS) flights could land at zero visibility at the airport so to read in newspapers that foreign flights were diverting to other countries raises a lot of questions,” Nnaji said.
Nnaji, who represents Nkanu East/West Federal Constituency of Enugu State noted that the committee needed explanations from the two agencies on why the country should experience such unfortunate development despite the earlier assurances from them that harmattan haze would not affect international flight operations this time around because of the facilities that had been put in place.
The chairman and members further reminded them that the report was not only damaging to the image of the country, but had also raised safety concerns among the travelling public. He noted that since the report of the incident he and his members had been bombarded with calls from the constituents regarding the state of the country’s airspace.
Responding, Akinkuotu assured the committee that based on the national weather minima and the available aids, the flight would have landed safely but the British pilot chose to go to Ghana based on the airline’s standard operating procedure, (SOP).
He said that it was regrettable that the same captain came back and landed under same weather without problems, noting that several other foreign airlines were landing at the same time the British Airways aborted landing without issues.
The House thereafter mandated the agency to issue a statement to allay the fears of Nigerians and visitors to the country.
The chairman equally expressed worries over the state of facilities at the international terminal of the Murtala Mohammed Airport; (MMIA) especially the conveyor belts, which he said had deteriorated.