How has Anambra’s airport fared?

Chukwunweike Araka
5 min readJun 3, 2023

Nearly 2 years after its commissioning, the Anambra airport remains in the league of commercially inviable airports in Nigeria — Rabiu Yadudu, Managing Director, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria.

Within one month of opening up on the 7th of December, 2021, the much unneeded Anambra airport in Umuleri­­­­ — an obscure town 30 kilometres from Onitsha, the state’s commercial and industrial powerhouse — recorded an impressive 142 flights transporting a total of 3,865 passengers. But don’t be deceived by these numbers, the airport remains a white elephant project with a price tag of two billion dollars commissioned under the administration of the myopic Willie Obiano.

The sign board stands as an irony to the inviability of the project

Everyone in Nigeria knows that it is a cliché among the Igbos to go back home during festive breaks, especially Christmas at the end of the year. At times like these, the movement of people into the Igbo heartland is artificially bumped up. Knowing this, using the traffic logged at the Anambra airport in December as a tell of the prospects of the airport would be hasty. A safer test of whether the airport was a good investment of public funds would be the traffic recorded against the preceding months of the year when the movement of people is somewhat normalized. Nevertheless, from the report of the FAAN, the airport is a bad venture.

But, this was a no-brainer from the very start: the airport was bound to not take off, from an economic standpoint. If the investors who fronted billions for the project or the governor who commissioned the project himself or even the people he represented sat for a minute to reason out the viability of an airport in the state, the obvious flaws would have been bare to them.

The first reason I think the airport is a misadventure is the state’s geography. Bearing in mind that Anambra is the second smallest state by land mass in Nigeria after Lagos, the state is flanked on all sides by states with functional airports. The closest of these airports is the Asaba International Airport, Delta state which is 34 kilometres from Onitsha, a comparable distance to the state’s Umuleri airport. Because of this proximity, Asaba has been a long-time favourite among airline passengers like yours truly in the state. The only hiccup that made the Asaba trip undesirable was the perennial traffic jams that characterized the river crossing between the two states, the Niger Bridge. However, this problem has been solved by the recently commissioned 2nd Niger Bridge, making Asaba a more attractive destination for airline passengers in Anambra.

The Umuleri Airport, Anambra aka Willie Obiano’s white ellephant.

To the state’s North East is Enugu’s Akanu Ibiam International Airport which is some 72 kilometres from Awka, Anambra’s administrative capital. Again, to the state’s South East is Imo state’s Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport, Owerri which is 95 kilometres from Nnewi, the second largest commercial and industrial hub in Anambra after Onitsha. Given the amount of airport infrastructure already servicing the Anambra region, the question any rational person seeking to construct an airport in Anambra should then ask is whether it makes economic sense considering the limited number of airline passengers available. The present which was then the future has arrived, and it answers this question in the negative. The Anambra airport was but a waste of public money.

But, there were other tells as to why the Anambra airport was a hasty decision. The second reason I believe the construction of the Anambra airport was putting the metaphoric cart before the horse is the yet unresolved infrastructure deficit that the state faces. As one of the 3,865 passengers that launched the airport’s first month of operations in December 2021, I can say that my scepticism towards the project was instantly justified by the horrible state of the roads back to Onitsha where I stay. The roads from the Umuleri airport to Onitsha, the state’s most populous city, and in effect, the city where most of the airport’s customers reside is in a state of disrepair at best, and non-existent at worst. That’s bad for business, and it reveals a deep-seated problem in the state — that of lack of policy priority.

Why build air transport infrastructure in your state when you haven’t finished handling the much-needed road infrastructure? It’s simply not logical. How do people who wish to fly get to the airport? Moreover, and in appreciation of my privilege, what is the ratio of people that can afford expensive airline tickets to those who travel by road? It’s no secret that flying in Nigeria is a luxury afforded to the rich as most of the population use roads as their primary means of transport. In consideration of this, any responsible government would have spent the enormous sum used in building the airport on rehabilitating existing roads and expanding the state’s road network.

Willie Obiano in Anaambra put up more posters of him working than he actually worked

Even if you were to attempt to justify the decision to build the Anambra airport on the grounds of improving trade through air shipments — which was the initial plan, it still doesn’t pan out. This is because on average air freight is about five times more expensive than shipment of goods by sea. Again, the fact that a single air shipment hasn’t been recorded at the airport since its commissioning in 2021 shows its unattractiveness.

On behalf of the people of Anambra, born and unborn, I present this case before the court of public opinion against you, Willie Obiano, the caretaker of Anambra from March 2014 to March 2022 for being a 419, yahoo-yahoo governor. The accused, a trustee of the state’s fortunes has misdirected it for personal gains. Word on the street is that the Anambra airport, Umuleri which is coincidentally sited at the former governor’s home town was commissioned by Willie Boy as a grand gesture to shut up naysayers who have accused him of doing nothing.

Sir, in my opinion, it would have been better if you had done nothing than drive Anambra deeper into debt, in the billions, to certain Chinese investors over a fruitless venture. On the facts I earlier presented, I pray that you are held accountable for the socio-economic fallout that your misinformed policy decisions have yielded, whether intentionally or not, and an example be made out of you to deter future leaders from following your path.

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Chukwunweike Araka

As a writer I believe I'm actively part of humanity's collective memory and conscience. And as such, I owe the duty of telling the truth at all times.