ENUGU- There was panic on Friday over the demolition of a perimeter fence belonging to the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu.
It was learnt that the demolition, which was carried out by thugs, created tension among the residents of nearby estates, as well airport workers.
A reliable source told our correspondent that a swift response by men of the Nigerian Air Force led to the arrest of some of the perpetrators.
There was also confusion over claims that the men behind the demolition were escorted by the police and some unknown gunmen.
This is not the first time the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, is coming under such attack.
In August 2020, a similar act was carried out, a development that drew the ire of the then aviation minister, Hadi Sirika, as well as the immediate past Enugu Governor, Rt Hon Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
Sirika, who stormed the airport then, vowed to apply all lawful means to prosecute one Arch. John J. Emejulu, who was said to be responsible for the destruction of the concrete perimeter fence, covering about 2km.
About four years later, Emejulu is being accused again of bringing the thugs that destroyed a section of the airport fence on Friday, January 12, 2024.
Mr Mark Benson, a private security guard manning one of the estates close to the airport fence, Oriental Estate, told journalists that several armed men and thugs invaded the area on Friday.
He said they accessed the airport fence through the estate’s gate.
According to him, “at about 9 am, I lock everywhere, one man carry police and other people come break the estate gate keys, force themselves inside here and start demolishing airport fence.
“I called the estate chairman and other people, so airport people came and arrested him.” (sic)
The aviation minister, Mr Festus Keyamo, SAN, was not pleased with the development and has activated a process to bring the perpetrators to book and stop a repeat of such.
It was also gathered that the Enugu airport manager, Mr Hillary Umunna visited the scene on Saturday in company of some other aviation workers.
Meanwhile, a resident of Oriental Estate, Barr Vincent Egechukwu Obetta described the development as totally condemnable and unacceptable.
Obetta told journalists that, “we share an adjoining fence with the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu.
“When this thing was happening yesterday, we thought it was a terrorist act because a particular airline was landing when some group of men with the police marched into this place and started destroying the fence that will lead them into the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, property.
“As communities that surround the FAAN property, we called the attention of the government.
“This matter, the land in dispute, (if there is any dispute at all) is already before a court of competent jurisdiction and when a matter is before a court of competent jurisdiction, every issue that is related thereto becomes sub-judice.
“So, we disagree with a situation where people are using the police to perpetrate illegality. Since December 20, we have not slept in this area; we won’t accept it.
“We believe in the rule of law and we believe in the authority of Nigeria. But we are not going to take a situation where some people choose to be lawless.
“When the assailant was caught, he was saying that the authorities of the Enugu State Police Command approved his action; we will no longer accept the invasion of this place by some group of unknown gunmen aided by the police.”
Similarly, the Chairman of Oriental Estate, Engineer Chris Aniemeje urged the federal government to deal decisively with Emejulu.
He recalled that this was not the first time Emejulu was allegedly invading the Enugu airport.
According to him, “It is quite unfortunate the menace being caused by one architect J.J. Emejulu.
“He has been making trouble, destroying houses, fences all around, in the name that he owns the property, but he could not produce any title document to that regard.
“There was some time he came and broke the whole airport perimeter fence, claiming that his property is within the airport premises, and after doing that, he ran away.
“Now that Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has left office, he is back, escorted by police and thugs.
“Even the one that happened yesterday being the 12th of January, 2024, he came with some unknown gunmen, and a police van.
“They were breaking down the already finished concrete airport premiere fence.
“We alerted the Air Force that there was a security breach; by the time they came, the thugs ran away but they were able to apprehend the man behind the demolition.
“It is quite an unfortunate situation that one man will be unleashing terror and encroaching on government property and we the residents close to the airport are no longer comfortable.
“I wonder why he should be left to carry out these activities and he would be let free.
“We urge the government to come into it; the federal government should apprehend him and deal decisively with him. I’m surprised that he is not languishing in jail after what he did in 2020; now he is back doing the same thing.”
Other landlords within the airport neighbourhood who spoke to journalists included Engr Chidiebere Didiugwu and Joshua Akachukwu.
They both lamented that the development has exposed them to danger.
“Everyday he is disturbing us with unknown gunmen. Even on 3rd January, he came; this area has become highly susceptible to attacks.
“We are appealing to the government to bring an end to this,” Didiugwu pleaded.
Similarly, Akachukwu said, “We have been exposed; we are now vulnerable to attacks by both hoodlums and reptiles; our wives and children are afraid.”
Further enquiries showed that the Enugu State government was equally sad over the demolition of the airport fence and vowed to bring the perpetrators to book.
A phone call was put to the Police Public Relations Officer, Enugu State Command, DSP Daniel Ndukwe but he did not answer the calls.
A text message was subsequently sent to him Saturday evening, but as of the time of filing this report, he was yet to respond.
Efforts to also obtain reaction from Emejulu were unsuccessful. But a source hinted that he was laying claims to the airport land.
It is unclear whether he has been released by the police, but his car was still sighted within the premises of the Airport Police Division.
A police source confirmed that he was transferred to the State CID.
“I don’t know whether he has been released, but he was brought in here on Friday,” the source said.