The Enugu Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (ECCIMA) has called on the federal government to make the Akanu Ibiam International Airport (AIIA), fully functional.
It said the call had become necessary owing to the stress that residents of the zone go through in order to connect international flights to travel abroad, or to and bring in goods.
President of the Chamber, Sir Emeka Nwandu, made the advocacy during the campaign flag-off of the forthcoming 33rd Enugu International Trade Fair themed “Opening up Nigerian Business Windows for Competitiveness in the Emerging Global Market,” which is scheduled for March 25 to April 4, 2022 at the permanent site, Trade Fair Complex, GRA, Enugu.
Represented by the First Deputy President, Jasper Nduagwuike, Nwandu stressed that the Southeast deserved a functional international airport, arguing that a large chunk of commodities that come into the country through international routes end up in the Southeast, especially in Onitsha and Nnewi, Anambra State.
He said: “There is no way around it. If we want to be sincere to ourselves, Southeast deserves a functional international airport. About 50 per cent of goods that come in through the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, end up in Onitsha and Nnewi, Anambra State.
“Ethiopian airlines was flying this route before and I think they have stopped due to one reason or the other. We feel that in consideration of the quantum of commercial and economic activities that happen in the zone, Southeast deserves a functional international airport.
“Why put the people through such stress of going through Lagos before one can travel out of the country?
“For instance, if you want to travel abroad, you would have to go to Lagos and spend at least one night before you can get a flight, probably, the next day.
“And if you go to Lagos by road, you cannot be sure when you would reach because, a journey to Lagos that used to take eight hours from the East now takes 18 to 20 hours. In some cases, you arrive the next day. That is a sad commentary.
“So, we are raising this advocacy that the AIIA should be functional. Even if it is cargo airport, let us use it as an international cargo airport; let us allow flights to come there.
“There is this argument that some big flights may not be able to come there, but no problem. Let the big flights land in Lagos and let the smaller ones land in Enugu. That will help in ameliorating the problem that we experience in commerce and other commercial activities in the Southeast”.
On the issue of poor infrastructure at the permanent site of the trade fair, the ECCIMA president noted that the successive management of the chamber had been consistent in appealing to the federal government to develop the facility but to no avail.
According to him, the present management had made about four visits to the federal ministry of industry and as well had several other fruitful engagements at relevant quarters over the matter and that they were hoping that some of the promises made to them would be fulfilled.
“It has become a mantra for us. At every possible opportunity that I got to talk to the ministries, I raise the issue of upgrading infrastructure in Enugu International Trade Fair Complex.
“What we have been saying over the years has attracted a little attention; within the past two years there has been about four delegations from the federal ministry of industry that visited the permanent site of the complex to assess the level of development and to know what to do about that place.
“We have always clarified that Enugu is just the host city of the international trade fair; what is being displayed there is Nigeria and not Enugu. What ECCIMA simply does is to host the fair on behalf of Nigeria because it is an international trade fair. It is Nigeria that is being showcased there.
So, international participants who come to the fair would simply say that Nigerian trade fair complex is poor, and not Enugu. We have been trying to get the ministry to understand that; we have made about four trips to Abuja over this. But the usual conclusion is that there is no money.
“The last time we went, they promised us that they would do something before the next trade fair. The next trade fair is almost here, and we are still hopeful that they will fulfil that promise”, Nwandu said.
Speaking further on the upcoming fair, the ECCIMA President noted that over 250 exhibitors were expected at the 2022 business expo, adding that there were plans to insure all businesses that would participate in the event.