Enugu Airport: Will It Ever Re-Open With Executive Tempers Running High?

By Ikeddy ISIGUZO

WHEN you read that Enugu State Government demolished the property of Architect John Jerry Emejulu, apparently for damaging two kilometres of Akanu Ibiam International Airport’s perimeter fence, did you not think the said property was in the vicinity of the airport? The demolished house was in Enugu GRA, 10 kilometres from the airport.

As if the distance did not indicate the stretch of the state government’s anger, the official position that the architect had been an unpunished perennial violator of building regulations sounded absurd. Unconcerned about how it action would be perceived, the Enugu State Government acted without consideration for resolution of the dispute.

The government was not different from the man it has castigated as a land speculator. They were both waving court papers from the Enugu State Judiciary. None of the judgements weighed on the side of the public, even if we are to learn that the architect’s home was sitting on a drainage channel. When was the house built? Who approves the plan?

Governments are supposed to lead by example in sustaining a law-abiding society. We are not about to see that in this matter. Anger, raw anger, is driving the narratives.

None of the parties thought of consequences. Their actions did not reflect the formalities that go with conducting important affairs that implicate the life of others.

Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika after an inspection of the damage fence belched more anger.

“He (Emejulu) has given the (Federal) Government the opportunity to show how not to wilfully destroy public asset belonging to over 200 million people…It is a wrong time to test our resolve. This will certainly be the end of this kind of recklessness. It’s unacceptable and I’m sure that we (Federal Government) are equal to the task of rising in defence of our national asset,” Sirika said.

The Minister, a former Member of the House of Representatives, a former Senator, knows enough law. However, he did not sound like someone who would wait for the law to determine the fate of Emejulu.

No matter how grounded his case was, Emejulu should have acted in the public interest by not resorting to the demolition of the property. What was his hurry since the matter was in court with a fixed hearing for 21 September 2020?

Issues on the lands around the airport are more complicated. The Eneh family have gazetted documents on the same land dated 4 July 1958, 50 years before Emejulu, who said he bought the land in 2008 from the communities. The Enehs have another document of 4 November 1965 on the same land.

Family spokesman Chief Gary Eneh said Mr. Emejulu was a litigant in an ongoing Suit No. E/642/2016, adjourned to 21 September 2020 after the last hearing date in Court 6, Enugu State High Court. He said the matter in dispute was the same as the airport land.

“The flaw and huge error in that judgement/execution is that Emejulu concealed from the judge and executing authority that, as has now been clearly proven by the Ministry of Lands and Survey of Enugu State, that his purported Airport Road Phases IV and V have no locational relationship to the area of the present Akanu Ibiam International Airport,” Eneh said about the court order Emejulu used in demolishing the airport fence.

“We wrote a petition to the Aviation Minister seeking compensation for the extension of the runway. Similar petitions have also been submitted to the presidency. The application is receiving attention by the Enugu State Government and the Aviation Ministry,” added the Eneh family spokesman.

Chief Nnoli Nnaji, Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation lamented the setback the latest development portends for the re-opening of the airport in which the South East Governors, South East Caucus of the National Assembly and the Ministry of Aviation had invested time and other resources. He, like its many users and owners of businesses in the facility, had looked forward to the re-opening.

The runway to the resolution of the issues, the completion of work on the airport, and its re-opening, looks longer than the airport’s.

How can the matters be expeditiously settled without unnecessarily delaying the re-opening of the airport? The Minister of Aviation, Governors, and land claimants should discuss with tempered emotions. They should settle the issues away from demolitions and threats.

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