Akhri War Laga Qoray Maalintii Lafurayay Jigjiga Airport,Qiimaha iyo Cida Dhistay.
London:(BNA)First Landing at Jijiga's New Airport 03 July, 2007
The new Jijiga Airport launches operation today, Sunday, July 1, 2007, landing its first aircraft from Abyssinia Air Service. Akir Construction Plc, a local company, recently completed a 45m wide and three kilometre long runway for the Airport at a cost of 62.6 million Br.
Eyob Estifanos, general manager of the Ethiopian Airports Administration Enterprise, Awetahegn Kiros, manager of the construction company, and three officials from the Enterprise will comprise five of the nine passengers on board the first plane to touch down at the new Airport.
Before the creation of this concrete asphalt runway, for 25 years, the old Jijiga Airport, could only provide services to small aircrafts with its tarmac runways.
The new runway, the first phase of the new Airport project, includes a 7.5m wide shoulder on each side of the runway, taxiway and plane parking area, additions which will be concluded in the following year.
The runway is the cornerstone of the project erecting the new Jijiga airport, according to an Enterprise official.
The 120,000 residents of Jijiga will witness Boeing 727 aircrafts touching down in the seat of the Somali Regional State after the remaining components of the new airport are complete.
The Enterprise awarded National Consultants the design and construction supervision work of the new Jijiga Airport terminal three months ago.
This initial phase of the project was completed on schedule, a feat uncommon to the region, Eyob told Fortune.
"Surpassing the progress of other projects underway in the region, the runway was finalised on time,” Eyob said.
Although Akir lacks experience in the construction of airport infrastructure as the Jijiga project is its first undertaking of such kind, it has been constructing roads and commercial buildings over the past 20 years.
The former National Bank of Ethiopia’s (NBE) state-of-the-art property that was meant to become a training institute for the Bank and was recently given to Addis Abeba University (AAU), located on the eastern outskirts of Addis Abeba, was constructed by Akir at a cost of over 100 million Br. It also built both Adama’s (Nazareth) and Dire Dawa’s interior roads and the company constructed Mekele’s ring road.
Awetahegn told Fortune he values the government’s effort to encourage inexperienced local contractors.
"Akir worked day and night to impress the government, who gave it the project with trust,” a beaming Awtahegn said.
The two-year project began on March 26, 2005, after Akir won the tender floated by the Airports Enterprise as part of its nationwide airports improvement agenda.
"We had planned to upgrade the standards of other airports in the country to better satisfy guests coming for the Millennium,” said Eyob. "I am satisfied with the achievement of this project.”
Out of the 13 airports that the Enterprise manages, three of them - the Addis Abeba, Dire Dawa and Mekelle airports – are up to par with international standards.
"Considering the proximity of Berbera Port in Somaliland, which is increasingly becoming Ethiopia’s second best alternative outlet in the last year, the completion of the new Jijiga Airport will play a vital role in the rising prominence of this route for international trade,” according to an official from the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MoTI).
Gaining the confidence of the Airports Enterprise with its timely success in Jijiga, Akir won yet another tender to construct airport infrastructure at a cost of 86 million Br in Assosa, the seat of Benishangul-Gumuz Regional State located in western Ethiopia. Akir mobilised its material resources to the site and started construction two months ago. The company itself is now upgrading its capacity as it has purchased new equipment for the Assosa project, according to Awetahegn.
"Following our standard, we will complete this project in a timely fashion, as well,” Awetahegn told Fortune.
By ISSAYAS MEKURIA - FORTUNE STAFF WRITER