Plans by the federal government to reopen the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu by Easter are no longer feasible as workers handling the project have abandoned site following the outbreak of coronavirus.
The minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, who visited the airport, yesterday, expressed shock that the workers could take such action after concerted efforts by the government to meet their demands.
He expressed regrets that the action could be taken when they had achieved almost 93 per cent completion of the upgrading process.
The minister stressed that a total rehabilitation would have been achieved if they had worked for seven more days.
The Akanu Ibiam International Airport was shut down last year to pave way for upgrading of its runways and other facilities. It is being handled by PW Construction Company.
After inspection tour of the facility, Sirika said that there was nothing else to do than to suspend further work until the ravaging covid-19 ends in the country, adding that, when work resumes, it would take at least 15 days to complete the rehabilitation process.
“We are sad to announce today that because the workers who ought to be on site had to close down shop to go back to their families because of the covid-19, we will no longer continue. We had planned to surmount this problem; we had pushed as far as we can to defeat this problem and to deliver this project by Easter. We were on our way to achieving that, we needed only seven days to deliver this project unfortunately, the workers based on the advice of their families abandoned site.
“As much as we would have loved to continue and deliver before Easter, we think that life is much more important. What we are trying to do here is to save life and create a new environment for safe operations and we will not in the process also lose other lives.
“The workers have taken the decision themselves, the governors of the southeast region had had dialogue with them, the company PW even though it had closed worldwide was willing to continue, we in the ministry were willing but in view of this, the workers said it is extremely difficult for them to continue with social distancing and in the circumstance, we will wait until the monster is conquered’’.
We respect them, we respect their views, and this is an act of God. It was not planned and we support them and wish them well with their families,” he stated.
According to him, spirited efforts were made to overcome teething challenges that were met since the airport was closed to traffic last year.
The minister stated that with the approval and release of the initial N10bllion by President Muhammadu Buhari, issues like quarry dust, asphalt, bitumen, glass mesh for the runway, radio mast and relocation of a market were done to meet stated deadline.