Africa: New Anambra airport to drive aviation air cargo competition in south east region, opens doors of economic growth in state


The newly constructed Anambra International Cargo Airport (AICA), built in record time to the amazement of stakeholders in the aviation sector and indigenes of the state is set to drive regional air cargo competition in the southern region.

The airport which will serve as another avenue for economic growth also opens the door for wide range of opportunities for Anambra and indigenes of the state.

According to a report by the, competition in air cargo and passenger traffic is already stiff in the east and adjourning the southern states.

For cargo traffic, the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport (SMICA) in Owerri, Imo State, and Enugu International airport, Enugu, favourably compete. The recently concessioned Asaba International Airport, in Asaba, does more passenger traffic.

In-between them comes AICA. Leading travel and tourism consultant, Ikechi Uko, reckons that Anambra has made the right inroad both for trade and the “billionaire businessmen cluster” in the State.

Ikechi observed that Anambra State was reputed to have the highest number of billionaires in Africa, and also has one of the largest markets in West Africa, in Onitsha main market – both of which will work to the advantage of its aviation venture.

READ: Africa: Anambra International Cargo/Passenger Airport to drive aviation and economic growth in South East Nigeria

“I have always believed that a 3km tarmac can transform any city. With the economic capacity of Anambra State the airport will be a game-changer. The businessmen and the viability are there. It is one of the few states that depends on its Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) for growth. So, there is no doubt that the State has sufficient business and capacity for trade.

“The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) said close to a thousand containers leave Lagos for Anambra weekly. That is a lot. That is an A-cargo opportunity for any airline. The business opportunity and entrepreneur prowess are not in doubt. The airport will be viable,” Ikechi said.

Apparently, in agreement with Ikechi, Aviation Consultant, Chris Aligbe, urged Anambra to focus on international cargo operations and efficient domestic passenger operations.

“Anambra must brace up for stiff competition from concessioned Asaba Airport, which is sitting on the same air passenger traffic emporium, even with a more extended market that stretches to Uromi, Abudu in Edo State.

“Onitsha, Nnewi, up to Okija axis and even Abagana are closer to Asaba than Awka. Again Enugu Airport controls the air traffic market stretching up to Udi, which is closer to Enugu than Awka. So, cargo will be the strength of the Anambra Airport, all things, including efficient management, being equal. In the final analysis, management will be very critical to success,” Aligbe said.

Built to last
Air Peace airline has the largest commercial fleet in the country. Shortly after the touchdown in Anambra, its chairman, Allen Onyema, said the landmark facility was significant for its longest runway in the country, with the capacity to receive the biggest airplanes in the world.

Onyema said: “What we have here is the longest and widest runway that can land a Boeing 777 and an Airbus 380. This is the first time an airport (in Nigeria) would be doing a test-run with a Boeing 737. It used to be very small planes before. I decided to bring in two planes to show the quality of the airport here. I can tell you that it is a game-changer,” Onyema said.

Commissioner for Works and Head of the project delivery team, Marcel Ifejiofor, said the level of work done in the airport was 90 per cent, and due to be fully completed before August.
Ifejiofor noted that except for the terminal and access roads that were near completion, all other components were 100 per cent ready.

“The good thing about what we are doing here is that the equipment have been paid for. The lights, the aerobridges, the security, the Instrument Landing Systems and the VOR have all been paid for. In the next two months, everything should have been completed and we would commission the airport,” Ifejiofor said.

When in operations, the terminal is expected to employ about 1000 direct and indirect workers. Its runway of 3.7km, with the apron of 300 by 200 metres has the capacity for eight Boeing 727 aircraft at a go.

“We have three access roads to this airport. We have one that is under contract and is being worked on, another one comes from Onitsha road but we have the major entrance of 5.7km that leads to the expressway. That road is 85 per cent completed. Our projected passenger traffic is 1,200 daily passengers because the terminal is designed for 400 passengers at a time.

“Airlines and other service providers are showing interest in this airport. Air Peace has indicated interest to set up a Maintenance Repair Overhaul (MRO) for aircraft. Aviation school is coming here to set up a training school. Before December 2021, commercial schedule operations would have commenced at this airport,” the commissioner said.

The demonstration and maiden flight event was quite symbolic. After the Boeing737 came another aircraft, Embraer 145 jet, also flown by Air Peace. Just as the event was rounding off, a private jet owned by an Anambra billionaire also flew in. For many residents and aviators, days ahead should be the most interesting.

Also, a report state that “For the people of Anambra state, the state government has unlocked an opportunity for job creation, for easy movement of goods and for connecting to the rest of the world from the state.”

Attention of Nigerians was drawn to the airport when the Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Musa Nuhu commended the facility after detailed inspection.

READ: Africa: Anambra International Airport: Obiano’s Ultimate Seal of Excellence in Leadership – opinion by James Eze

He described it as one of the best in the country and said he was amazed at the elaborate, carefully planned and masterfully executed facilities at the new airport.

“I am amazed, almost speechless at the level of work, and the level of compliance with our regulatory requirements and also with international standards and recommended practices.

“We have gone round the airport. We have a runway of 3.7kilometers with a runway safety area on both ends of the airport of about 1000 meters. There’s no airport in Nigeria that has a racer area of 1000 meters at both ends of the runway.
“With two taxiways. We have gone to the tower; the control tower is amazing, certainly if not one of the best control towers in Nigeria today. We have seen the fire service station. Amazing.
“It’s going to be a CAT (category) 955 firefighting station which will allow big planes and international flights to be landing and taking off here once flight resumes.”

“It takes care of the need of not only the airport but also of the firefighting service. We have seen the emergency evacuation center, trauma center in case, God forbid, anything happens.
“There’s arrangement to deal with any eventuality. I have seen the operational fence, I have seen the perimeter fence, significantly done or almost completed. And in the vehicle earlier today, I had said that ‘Anambra means business.’ And I mean it when I say Anambra means business,” the Director General, who was obviously satisfied with the work done, said.

Quick Execution
The Chairman and CEO of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, an indigene of the state who was elated that the state government could in a short time build such facility, gave kudos to Governor Willy Obiano and his team for building the airport in record time.

“I shed tears when I landed here because nobody ever believed that this day would come. I remember some months ago when I went on television to tell the world that what I saw here was impressive, some people went to town to condemn me.

“But today, I have been vindicated. This is the fastest airport to be approved by the federal government for a test flight and it is a testament of the quality of job done here. What we have here is the best runway in Africa and the widest runway to be built. This runway can land a Boeing 777 and an Airbus 380, which are the biggest planes.

“We decided to bring a small plane and a big one to show the quality of job the government has done. This airport is not going to serve only Anambra people; it would serve the South East and the entire country. I said four months ago that President Muhammadu Buhari would approve this airport as an international and cargo airport.

“One thing that is certain is that the airport will generate thousands of jobs for our people. Forget where the airport is sited; we have nothing against it because there is plenty of land, which helped to ensure that a 3.7 kilometer runway was built,” Onyema said.

Quality of Work
The Anambra State Commissioner for Works and Head of the project delivery team, Marcel Ifejiofor disclosed to newsmen that the level of work done in the airport was 90 percent, but the runway was 100 percent completed.

“The apron is 100 percent completed and the taxi way is 100 percent completed. The terminal is 90 percent completed. The good thing about what we are doing here is that all the equipment has been paid for. The lights, the avio bridges, the security, the Instrument Landing Systems (ILS) and the VOR (Voice Ominidirectional Radio Range) have all been paid for.

“In the next two months, everything should have been completed and we would commission the airport. For landscaping, the contract has been given. Our budget is on a yearly basis,” he explained.

He said the Governor of Anambra State had created a community by building the airport, noting that an airport is a community both socially and economically. Ifejiofor added: “In the construction stage, we employed about 2,500 workers and we have the suppliers. In a day, our suppliers bring in about 72 trucks, 30 tonnes of gravels. People are supplying these things and the equipment we are using here are many.

“These include diesel, cement and sand, which are supplied. The food vendors are also benefiting. The employment opportunities are unprecedented.”

He remarked that when the terminal is completed, it won’t take anything less than 1000 workers, adding that employment opportunities would cut across aviation security, fire control workers, shops and others.

THISDAY learnt that since it dawned on many that the airport has become a reality, there arose a raging argument whether the airport would be designated as international airport.

Such designation, experts said, is at the discretion of the federal government. But the Anambra state government in building the airport raised it to the standard that it would meet the fire cover of international airport. It also built a runway that met international standards and all other infrastructure in the airport were built to meet the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the Airport Council International (ACI) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) standards. But it is left to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority to give its verdict on the airport.

Ifejiofor explained, “The licence we have from the Ministry of Aviation recognises it as Anambra International Cargo Airport. It is equally licenced for passengers. Our runway is 3.7 kilometres; the apron is 300 by 200 meters. It can take eight Boeing 737. The critical aircraft for this place is Boeing 737.

“We have a strip of 140 meters on the other side of the runway. We have three access roads to this airport. We have one that is under contract and is being worked on, another one comes from Onitsha road but we have the major entrance that leads to the express. This is 5.7Km; that road is 85 percent completed. You can go through that road.”

He said that the projected passenger traffic for the airport at the onset would be 1,200 daily because the terminal was designed for 400 passengers at a time.

“In other countries, there are airports in every city. The easiest and safest means of transportation is by air. So, it doesn’t matter if we have more airports. As we speak we are doing a tank farm with a capacity of 2.1 million litres of aviation fuel and it is a private sector arrangement. That facility is 80 percent completed. We have the tallest control tower in Nigeria and it is done on concrete.

“The staircase is fire prove. We call it the safe heaven. Once there is fire in that building and we enter the staircase and close it, the fire would not get in. It also has self fire-fighting equipment. We have a tank, we have a fire pump house and we send water. Every room and office has a sprinkler.

“Beside it, we have a firehouse. The firehouse is the most recent fire tenders in the world from Germany. This fire service takes 12,500 liters each and they are three. So the category of fire cover we have here is category 9, which is the biggest,” the Commissioner said.

He said the state government has already awarded the contract to train the technical personnel to East Wing. The personnel to be trained include general training, aviation safety and security.
The Commissioner also said the Governor visited this site at least once a week and construction has been on for one year and three months and no contractor is owed; “once contractors submit their certificates, he (the Governor) pays. He has not borrowed any money to construct this airport.”

Ifejiofor also disclosed that airlines and other service providers are showing interest to come to this airport, adding that so many people want to build maintenance hangar here, including Nigeria’s major carrier, which has indicated interest to set up a Maintenance Repair Overhaul (MRO) facility at the airport. He added that there are plans to set up aviation training school at the airport premises.

“Before December 2021, commercial schedule operations would have commenced at this airport,” the Commissioner assured.

Industry expert and CEO of Belujane Konsult, Chris Aligbe, told THISDAY that for the Anambra airport to be of high utility and profitable, it must be designated as cargo airport, whereby the federal government would recognise it as cargo facility to enable it take in cargo directly from overseas.

“They should seek an approval for international cargo operation. They should not border about passengers. Passengers can go to Enugu for major international flights, but they should look at cargo and seek approval for international cargo operation. If they should do that and begin to build on it, the airport will become attractive. For cargo, the airport will be the only one in that region, except Enugu. But if it does well as a cargo airport, it can go a long way,” Aligbe said.

Also the Chief Executive Officer of Mainstream Cargo Limited, Seyi Adewale said the airport would further endear many economic actors to the state, thereby increasing the state’s prosperity and accessibility considering the current state of the country’s road network.

Adewale explained that the capacity of the state to generate additional Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) would improve based on rentals and other taxes that would be generated from the airport and associated businesses. He also noted that the enhanced and efficient movement of goods, services and human capital would improve the state’s capacity to attract investment.

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