THERE was jubilation in Enugu and other parts of Igboland last week Thursday following the groundbreaking of Free Trade Zone in the Southeast region.
The Nigerian Tribune, which witnessed the event, observed that many people were happy over the development as many Enugu residents as well as visitors, besieged construction site near the Akanu-Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, as early as 7 am on the said day.
It was learnt that the idea for the Free Trade Zone was first muted in 1999 by the then Governor Chimaroke Nnamani, but was delayed until the coming of the present regime in the state led by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
To this end, joy among Ndigbo knew no bound when history was made last Thursday, moreso as Governor Ugwuanyi used the opportunity to push for Second Runway at Enugu Airport.
Ugwuanyi noted that the establishment of the Free Trade Zone in the state should lead to the construction of a second runway at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu.
“With Free Trade Zone in Enugu, such construction will create room for the expected increase in air traffic at the airport”, he said.
The governor further appealed to the Federal Government to ensure that the airport met all internationally accepted standards particularly with regard to the length and resurfacing of the existing runway, and installing of facilities that would improve night operations and accommodate heavier aircrafts normally used for international and intercontinental travel.
“The Free Trade Zone Enugu which is a Public-Private Partnership was licensed by the Federal Government in December 2015. It is the only free trade zone in the South East region that offers international and domestic investors an easy link to businesses from the south eastern cluster which has been acclaimed as the second largest economic cluster in Nigeria after the Lagos cluster”, he added.
According to the governor, “today’s ceremony marks another giant leap in our drive for foreign investment as well as the economic diversification roadmap of Enugu State, the South East and that of the country in general.”
Commending President Muhammadu Buhari for endorsing the project, Governor Ugwuanyi appealed to the Federal Government to intervene in the rehabilitation of federal roads in the South East, particularly those linking the capital cities of the region, most of which are in deplorable conditions.
Earlier, the Deputy Head of Mission at the Czech Republic Embassy in Nigeria, Mrs Hana Klucarova, said that her country would partner and work with the Enugu State government in order to make the free trade zone a success.
Also speaking, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Enugu State Free Trade Zone, Mr Emeka Eneh, said the project would stimulate trade and investment beyond oil when operational as well as provide massive opportunities for employment.
He explained that of the 35 operational free trade zones in the country, Enugu Free Trade Zone located near the Akanu Ibiam International Airport Enugu and its 9th Mile Corner annex was the first
free trade zone to be established in the South East zone. He further thanked everyone who helped in making the dream conceived about a decade ago come true, especially Governor Ugwuanyi whom he described as a visionary leader.