The Enugu State Commander of the National Drug Law Enforce Agency, (NDLEA), Dr. Anthony Nkem Ohanyemere (mni), has urged all stakeholders, business men, government agencies and the airlines operating in the State to harmonize efforts in order to redeem the debilitating image of the Enugu international airport, adding that losing the airport entirely could be dire for customers, the State and agencies who derive their revenue from the transactions going on there.
He made this known Monday in Enugu during a multipurpose stakeholders forum that met at the headquarters of the Nigeria Customs Service, Enugu to address the problem of low patronage of customers and how to tackle extortion by different agencies operating at the airport so that customers could turn back and patronize the airport.
Ohanyemere said that low patronage was causing low returns and scanty revenue going to the government and blamed this on the agencies who embark on business with too much emphasis on profits.
“In this situation, everyone is interested in making profits. The airline is interested in maximising profits, businessmen are interested in maximizing profits, Customs and other agencies are also interested in reaching their benchmark but there is one thing we should understand and that is, every new thing has its own challenges. When this Enugu airport was declared international, I wrote a report that it was going to challenge the fortunes of Lagos airports because most of the transactions there flow from the east and that the rise in commercial activities in Enugu was going yo bring about a drop in those of Lagos but regrettably, it was only Ethiopian airline that began rendering international services in Enugu.”
“Now everyone is complaining; Customs are complaining they have not reached their 11 billion target for the year, Ethiopian airline is complaining that they are not getting customers and customers too are complaining that they cannot continue to patronize an airport where they go through hell before they can travel. In this situation, we need dialogue and a memorandum of understanding if we must move forward. Everyone has to take corrections and improve in their own capacity so that the business would move forward.”
“I want to warn, you must not allow this opportunity go. Since 1960, the people of Enugu have been clamouring for the upgrade of the airport to international standard. The time has come to make it work and stand,” he said.
He stressed that it is a task of all the people involved to pool resources in order to rescue and upgrade the airport, adding that it was due to nonchalant attitude and the mindset for extortion and inflation of everything in the area that led to the fall of Calabar seaport.
“When the first ship came to the Calabar seaport, it was as if everyone wanted to have their own opportunity once and for all. At that point, everything skyrocketed; rents, transport fare, and even road checkpoints increased by 200% and people were complaining that this may be the last and it was the last. Most of the secondary schools in the east are attributed to the communities but for those in the west, they are either college or grammar school. Roads, water and electricity were being provided by private individuals in the east. Everyone is now complaining that the airport has a problem, why don’t you, as stakeholders form an organization or a pressure group to channel d sensitize the governors to work on the airports in South east? You must show the initiative before the government can help. If you all decide to make the airport your priority, like Chief Mbakwe did in Imo State, which was inconceivable, it would become a reality. If only you mobilize and let the government know that this airport project is important to you, they would grant your request than writing to the government as an individual.”
The NDLEA boss commended the organizers of the forum for deeming it fit to address the issues that are hindering revenues to the government at the airport and called on everyone to make the standardization of the airport their priority.
The Enugu/Anambra/Ebonyi Area Comptroller of the Nigeria Customs Service, who was the convener of the forum, appealed to the government to key in, in order to provide an enabling environment for business to thrive at the Enugu airport. He complained of lack of 24hours water supply system, which he said could be dammed from the nearby river at the airport, electricity, upgrade of mast/tarmac to international standard and to address community agitations for compensation which he said was hindering progress as the efforts have been made to construct approach light in Udi but community members sent the contractors away.
He called on all agencies at the airport to stop extorting money from customers, adding that extra billings from every pound of goods were making customers to move to other routes for their transaction. He also advocated for prompt payment of arrears and remitting of returns.
The Traffic and Sales Manager, Ethiopian airlines, Mr. Birnian Addiso, however promised on improved service for customers, adding that, “we all exist for one another.”