Ejiro Eghagha on Developmental strides in Nigeria-Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu

English: Enugu Airport Terminal (Airside) Deut...

English: Enugu Airport Terminal (Airside) Deutsch: Enugu Airport Terminal (Airside) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nigeria has never witnessed such pace  infrastructural development since 1960. Neither can we now deny the level of strategic development initiatives being embarked on by the Jonathan administration.

After the civil war, the Igbo nation was sidelined in developmental pace of the country. This is now an obvious fact, with positive reactions greeting the opening of an International Airport in Enugu State. All flights are fully booked till October 2013, even with four weekly flights by Ethiopian Airlines.

What are the social implications?

Igbo Nigerian`s will certainly feel the immediate and long-term impact of proximity to an international gateway. More students will be encouraged to seek education abroad, for one and also generally travel and the exposure it brings along with it will be experienced more readily. This is because access to travel will now be a physical reality rather than a vision available only in far away Lagos. Something that will spark that desire to travel has finally become a reality in the East. More parents will see the inherent benefits of exposure and take advantage of it.

Secondly, the ease of travelling to Eastern Nigeria will certainly encourage more Igbo Nigerian`s and those living closer to Enugu than Lagos, to travel home from outside the country, triggering more inflow of foreign exchange especially during festive periods. The fear of bad roads, which in any case is now being eliminated with upgrades in road infrastructure around the country, and the unfounded and  unnecessary fear of local flights not being trust worthy, (even with recent international safety certifications of Nigeria Airspace) will be discountenanced with international flights landing directly in the East and cutting off further need for local travel to get to the region.

Thirdly, what this implies is an international airport bustling with Igbo Nigerian`s. Traders, travelers and users of the airport will by its situation be majorly Igbo. If that does not further  give a sense of belonging to Nigeria in the East, I wonder what else may.

What are the commercial implications?

According to MTN, the Tele communications giant, they knew they had made an error of judgement in Nigeria after reeling off their products and services in Lagos only to get to the East and be swallowed up by the huge market available. They had initially underestimated the strength and depth of the Nigerian market. With this in mind, it is obvious that an international airport in the East is a major blessing to Nigeria.

I have always believed that everyone should develop at their own pace in Nigeria. To “coerce” Easterners to travel to Lagos as an alternative to any other International airport outside the East will only and has only slowed down the economic growth of the region and indeed Nigeria. To ask Igbo Nigerian`s to spend money and time going through other Airport`s has simply denied development in Igbo Land. Think about all the Hotel`s and Car Hire businesses servicing  the Lagos Airport for instance and patronized by Easterners who travel to Lagos en-route Europe America and Asia. Now Lagos will see a likely congestion problem in international air traffic eased up, but certainly being Lagos, a non significant fall in travelers will be the result in the long run. Lagos will still be Lagos, with enough air travelers to handle. However, now, the East will also benefit with a new directed flow of travelers coming with their spending and needs that will allow for employment and commercial developments too in the region.

One cannot deny or turn a blind eye to the innate commerce skills of the Igbo`s as a people. It is safe to say therefore that a “Nigerian Hong Kong” is in the making, with this new airport commissioning. Add the sea port recently opened in Onitsha  and the Railway system that is being programmed and running in some ares already and you will agree that we are experiencing a Government that delivers of visions and promises for a better Nigeria, despite distractions from an abuse of democratic principles of freedom of speech by most opposition elements and nay sayers in general, who rightfully though have been exposed to brutal military dictatorships and failed democratic promises for too long, in the past. These group of people  may now be unknowingly blinded to see a growing Nigeria, and indeed a growing Eastern nation in Nigeria.

Why should Nigerian`s be happy with the Enugu airport?

Freedom has come to the East, and by implication to the Nigerian psyche. Igbo`s do not have to go through a third-party any longer. Now you may buy your ticket drive down to the Airport and fly (If you have a valid travel documents). No more extended plans for stop overs in Lagos or other Airports.

A booming Eastern economy through increased commercial trading activities, projected Investments in Tourism to attract international travelers and an this encouraging platform to build trust of Nigerian`s in The Diaspora  will only add to our national purse and ease off dependence on Oil and Gas.

The caveat here though is on the need to put in adequate security and emergency response units in place to always maintain internationally accepted standards for developments of this nature. Furthermore, an international Airport not properly checked and managed will only end up being a conduit for the importation of banned and dangerous  items into the country and the consequences are not hard to imagine. Going by recent security situations in Nigeria though, one can rest assured that proper planning and management have been considered for the new Airport.

Definitely, credit must be given to President Jonathan`s cabinet that has carried out his predecessor`s dream of an international Airport in Enugu. An uncommon occurrence in Nigerian politics is for a new “oga” to complete his former “oga`s” works. Commendable achievement and much-needed visionary leadership in the Transport and Aviation sectors, I say.

Ejiro Eghagha, Author and social commentator writes from Abuja.

 

 

Posted on August 27, 2013, in Economy and Development and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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