By Sam Nzeh & Moses Oyediran
Business activities pick up around, within facility
Residents of Enugu, the political hub of the Southeast region of Nigeria, are praising President Muhammadu Buhari over the completion of rehabilitation work at Akanu Ibiam International Airport as the facility reopens tomorrow, August 30.
They also commended the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, for his commitment to the completion of rehabilitation work at the airport.
They saif that the minister took special interest in the project going by several visits he paid to the facility to ensure that work went on well and to specification.
The residents also applauded Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State for the support his administration gave towards the rehabilitation and reopening of the airport.
The Federal Government shut down the airport on August 24, 2019 for massive reconstruction of the runway and terminal building among others for N10 billion.
A cross section of Enugu residents, who spoke to Daily Times on Friday, expressed delight that business activities would begin to boom in the state.
According to Chief Chidi Obetta, a businessman and a House of Representatives aspirant in the 2019 election, “Ndi Enugu are happy that at long last the Akanu Ibiam International Airport is finally going to be reopened.
We commend President Muhammadu Buhari and the Aviation minister for the way the rehabilitation work at the airport was executed.
“Opening of the airport will ease the pains of a whole lot of south easterners who are known for their enterprise in businesses; it will also ease the associated hazards of traveling by roads.
“The decision to reopen the airport will help in easing the haulage of our agricultural produce that abounds within the region to countries that need them as raw materials.
“We are excited because industrialists can now bring in their machines and other equipment needed for productions in factories, foreign investors also will now find it attractive to establish their businesses within the region”.
Also, an Enugu-based journalist, who works for a national daily but declined to be named, expressed delight at the level of work at the airport on Friday.
He remarked that nobody who was at the facility last week will believe that it will reopen as scheduled.
He praised the minister and his ministry for working to realise the project as well as sticking to the reopening date of the airport.
He said: “Myself and some of my colleagues were here last week to see the level of work but from what we saw it appeared that the reopening of the airport will not happen as scheduled.
“Apart from the runway which had been completed as at that week, not much was going on at the terminal building, the new drop-off point, and the airport entrance among others.
“Anyone who was here last week will marvel at the new look of the airport today (Friday).
This is a great feat and I commend the President and the minister for ensuring that this airport is fully upgraded to international status.”
He added that with the rate of work at the terminal building, the entrance and other areas on Friday, the reopening of the facility tomorrow was a done deal.
Another resident of Enugu, Obidike Arum, said: “I am happy that the Akanu Ibiam airport can now be called an international airport indeed by the quality of rehabilitation work done on it.
We now have a standard runway that can accommodate wide-bodied aircraft. The terminal building is impressive and those who fly into this airport will have a new experience.
“I commend President Buhari and the minister for this wonderful work done at this airport.
This sure will go a long way in changing the perception of the President by a lot of South Easterners.” Meanwhile, business activities within the airport have started picking up.
Though most of the shops at the airport terminal were yet to reopen, some of their owners were doing some cleaning in readiness for the reopening.
However, some eateries within the facility were open and recorded huge patronage on Friday.
They expressed delight at the news of the reopening of the airport tomorrow, saying they lost a lot throughout the period it was closed. Mrs. Judith Ogboke, a food vendor within the airport, said: “I have been seriously affected by the closure of the airport.
I have not been making sales since this airport was shut down. “In fact, most business operators around here shut down their businesses and were forced to leave a low life.
“Some people who depended on what they realised from here daily to cater for their families were greatly affected. “But since the rehabilitation work started, I have been making sales.
“Now that the airport will reopen, my joy knows no bounds. Businesses will definitely step up.”
Another businesswoman, Mrs. Nkechi Ogbodo, praised Buhari for his insight and understanding in rehabilitating and reopening the airport.
Ogbodo said at a point, people started entertaining fears that it may not be reopened, adding that some prophets of doom even said that the president would downgrade it to a domestic airport.
“This has shown that the president never hated Ndigbo as things like this have never happened before.
It is unheard of that people that a president we never voted for is the one showing us much love”, she said.
Another business operator within the airport, Mr. Chuks Eze, said: “The economy around here is picking up, all thanks to God almighty and President Buhari.”