There are indications that the Akanu Ibiam Airport in Enugu may be closed for international operations, as the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has said the airport’s designation as international airport was not gazetted and therefore there was no white paper to give it legal teeth to that effect.
A dependable source told THISDAY that the designation of Ethiopian Airlines to operate from the airport was done by Presidential fiat so it was a temporary situation that could only subsist at the whims of the regulatory body and at the behest of the President that gave the order.
The NCAA source said only four airports in the country were gazetted and these include Port Harcourt, Abuja, Lagos and Kano airports, adding that tourists who always wanted to land directly from overseas destinations to the Margaret Ekpo International Airport, Calabar were always denied the chance because the airport was not gazetted as international airport.
However, the Special Adviser (Media) to the Minister of Aviation, Joe Obi, told THISDAY that saying that the Enugu airport has not been gazetted as international airport is “very, very improbable.”
“It does not sound plausible because the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu is an international airport by all definition and once any airline or charter operator has the required clearance he can fly into the airport,” he said.
THISDAY learnt that last week a chartered flight from Accra, Ghana wanted to airlift investors from the Ghanaian capital directly to Enugu for business meeting and from Enugu to Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, but NCAA refused to process the document for the flight’s clearance; rather, the Air Transport Regulation (ATR) of NCAA directed the pilot of the aircraft to fly first to Abuja before taking off to Enugu and from Enugu it flew back to Abuja and henceforth to Malabo, a tortuous journey and waste of fuel.
When contacted the General Manager, Public Affairs of NCAA, Fan Ndubuoke, was ambivalent, unable to authenticate or deny the position of the official from ATR, but said the person or organisation that wanted to process the flight from Ghana might not be the right organisation to do that.
He warned that charter operators and others should be wary about the companies they contact to process flights for them.
Also the General Manager, Corporate Communication, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Yakubu Dati, said he would investigate the matter, and noted that not only that Ethiopian Airlines is operating from the airport but other airlines have indicated interest to also operate from Enugu.