Former governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano, made history on April 11, 2017, when he discussed the Airport City Project in Umueri, Anambra East Local Government Area.
During the flag-off, Obiano made a commitment that the project went far beyond an airport.
The deep oil reserve in Aguleri Otu community, which hosts the headquarters of Orient Petroleum Company, will provide services like refueling of aircraft, he said, and the aerodrome will not only see the touching down of flights from all over Nigeria and beyond.
Obiano made sure that this long-held dream, which had been left unfulfilled by various administrations, became a reality in his lifetime. Anambra was not left in debt as a result.
He began the project in 2017 in the presence of Anambra natives to whom he had given it in 2021.
“Three years into my first term in office, I stand before you today to answer the call of history. In Christian numerology, the number three is the number of perfect manifestations. So, three years into my administration, the Lord God Almighty has given us a new vision and a new song! Umu nnem, our elders say that ugo gbuzuo, o chakee! Anambra has finally hit the bend in the river and our famous can-do spirit has now taken over!
“What we are flagging off today is an Airport City Project with a model that will accommodate an airport with two runways, aviation fuel dump, airport hotel, industrial business park, international convention centre as well as a facility for aircraft maintenance. The Umueri Airport City Project is conceived to join some of the most advanced airports in the world with the capacity to land any of the most sophisticated vessels known to man today,” he promised the people of Anambra.
According to him, the city sits on 1,500 hectares of land with enough elbowroom for expansion from Ivite Umueri to neighbouring communities of Nando, Umunya, Otuocha, Aguleri, Nteje, Nsugbe and beyond.
He says: “The project is estimated to cost over $2 billion. It is a partnership between the government of Anambra, Orient Petroleum Resources Limited and Elite International Investments Limited (Sinoking Enterprises Limited).
“Under the contractual agreement, Elite will provide the funds needed for the project under the Build-Operate-Manage-and-
Anambra government received permission from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority on December 2, 2021, and the airport officially opened for business on December 7.
To continue in his efforts to bring wealth and prosperity to the people, the Anambra airport set a goal of 1,200 direct jobs and 3,600 indirect jobs, with a bias that Anambra natives would fill 70 per cent of these positions. Obiano wanted the project to give state residents the chance to receive training and skill transfers.
When the airport is done, according to Femi Fani-Kayode, a former aviation minister, who visited Anambra in August 2020, it would be the first of its kind in Nigeria.
He said, “What I have just seen is mind-blowing. We just ran down the runway of the Anambra airport, and what I have just seen shows that when completed, it will be one of the best airports in the country.
“The runway is longer than that of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport and Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport in Abuja, and longer than any other in Nigeria. It is silkier and broader than any other airport runway in Nigeria. There is no Federal Government, let alone state government, that has undertaken that kind of project before and you all know it. To me, it is amazing that such a project has remained a secret. It would dwarf every other airport around, probably throughout the south. It is a good thing for the people of Anambra. That is my view as a person who knows the aviation industry.”
The Anambra airport recorded 142 flights lifting 3,865 passengers in its first month of operation.
A Boeing 737 from Chief Allen Onyema’s Air Peace fleet was the first aircraft to touch down at the airport on April 30, 2021.
The Anambra International Cargo and Passenger Airport is in Category 4F, making it possible for an Airbus A380 to safely land there. With a length of 3.7km, an end safety zone of one kilometre on either end, a width of 60m, and a strip of 440m on either side, the runway is the second-longest in Nigeria.
It has an instrument landing system, which makes sure that when an aircraft lands, it is both vertically and horizontally aligned with the runway. The airport’s apron measuring 300m by 200m is built on a rigid reinforced concrete pavement with a thickness of 5,560mm. It has two taxiways and can hold eight Boeing 747 aircraft simultaneously.
The apron is designed to deflect moisture. Water thus readily runs off the surface even when it rains. The concrete control tower, the tallest structure in Nigeria at 34.5m (height of an 11-story building), has nine suspended floors and a fire-resistant elevator and staircase.
Additionally, it has biometric security doors. Sprinkler systems are installed in every room in the tower and throughout the airport.
Two roads serve as entrances to the airport. The Onitsha-Enugu expressway is connected by the first and most important airport road, which is about 5.7km long. The well-lit road has two lanes of traffic and a bridge on either side. It is clearly marked, and has drainage channels on both sides.
The airport has a four-storey terminal structure with shops and 750 parking spaces.
For the people of Anambra, this is the realisation of a dream, the Commissioner for Works, Marcel Ifediofor said.
He said, “It is a credit to all of us, but the major credit goes to Obiano for his support, morally and financially, to make sure we got to this stage.”
In his speech, he described how service providers and contractors worked on the project non-stop for 15 months without hitches. He also mentioned how 500 machines and more than 50 trucks were used, and no accident reported.
“It is wonderful because safety is number one. Any good contractor takes safety seriously. This is really a dream come true because instead of going elsewhere to clear goods, we now have the facilities in our backyard,” he added.
Obiano explained why the Anambra airport project was noteworthy, despite not borrowing any known funds.
“The most interesting thing about this airport is that we did not borrow a kobo to build it. This, in itself, is a record in leadership. Our dream of an airport started almost 30 years ago when the government of Anambra acquired 530 hectares of land in Oba, Idemili South Local Government, with the intention of building an airport, but that never materialised. That dream is fulfilled today.
“We began the airport to expand the frontiers of excellence in Anambra seven years ago. We announced that our mission was to make Anambra the first choice investment destination and a hub for economic and commercial activities,” he said.
Onyema acknowledged that the Federal Government had approved for the Anambra airport one of the quickest times possible based solely on the calibre of the work performed.
“What we have is the widest runway ever in Nigeria and it can land an Airbus 380, the largest aircraft. This is the first time an airline in Nigeria did a test-run with Boeing 737,” he added.