The Senate has called on the Federal Ministry of Transport to resurface and reconstruct the runway of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu.
The Senate also mandated its Committee on Aviation to carry out an investigation into the design and construction of the runway.
These resolutions were sequel to a motion on ‘Need for Emergency Reconstruction of the Runway of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu’ sponsored by Sen. Chukwuka Utazi (PDP-Enugu) on Thursday during plenary.
Utazi noted that the airport was the first airport east of the Niger that was built even before Nigeria’s independence and was only upgraded to the status of International Airport on August 24, 2013.
He said, “The runway before it was upgraded was 2,400 metres length and 45 metres width but after the upgrade, it was extended to 3,000 metres length which can now take a medium to large size aircraft.
“A result of a technical appraisal shows that due to high water table of the airport, water percolates and gets trapped between upper asphalt and bottom concrete.
“This persistent retention of water weakens asphalt and creates potholes and cracks as a result of the weight of landing aircraft which are now heavier that the aircraft of the 60’s and 70’s.”
The lawmaker explained that the airport also lacked approach lights at two ends of the runway which had necessitated that it operated between 7 am and 7 pm.
Contributing, Deputy Majority Leader, Sen. Bala Na’Allah described the airport as `technically unsafe’ for use and also charged the government to quickly bring it back to life to further boost the nation’s economy.
He said that there was usually an update and runway inspection carried out daily in airports across the country.
“Every day before an airport is opened, there is what is referred to as runway inspection from the threshold of one end to the other end and a report is made.
“So there is no hard and fast rule about whether an aircraft is safe or not,” Utazi said.
Similarly, Sen. Sam Egwu (PDP-Ebonyi) stressed the need for the Federal Government to pay urgent attention to the airport in view of its importance not only to the South-East but the entire country.
On his part, Sen.Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP- Abia) wondered why the airport was always not being considered among others for rehabilitation or upgrade.
He noted that it was shut for a long period about three years ago for a possible upgrade and that was never done.
In his remarks, Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over plenary said the state of the airport was worrisome.
“When you pass through the airport, people say their prayers; God has been answering those prayers.
“I don’t know how long God will oblige us especially now that we know the place is dangerous.
“The South-East Caucus had course to discuss this matter with the President and the President showed concern;
“We thought that probably in the last budget that the Executive will take it upon themselves to ensure that it is appropriated for.
“We have a problem in this country on how we address disasters. Sometimes we allow disasters to happen and then we mourn; this should be a wakeup call.
“Whatever provision has to be made has to be made and not for resurfacing but for reconstruction of the airport,” Ekweremadu said.
He, however, appealed to engineers, architects and designers in Federal and States Ministries that in making some of those things, they must be very careful and very professional in designs so that the runways could stand the test of time.