It was jubilation galore on Saturday as the first international flight from the Akanu Ibiam International Airport in Enugu, Enugu State took off to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with 153 passengers on board.
The flight was by Ethiopian Airlines, using a Boeing 737-800, which took off at 2.20pm.
The event was witnessed by four South-East state governors of Abia (Theodore Orji), Anambra (Peter Obi), Ebonyi (Martin Elechi) and Enugu (Sullivan Chime).
Others who witnessed the event were the Ministers of Aviation (Stella Oduah), Finance (Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala), Health (Onyebuchi Chukwu) and Power (Chinedu Nebo), as well as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Anyim Pius Anyim.
Members of the National Assembly, led by the Deputy Senate President, Chief Ike Ekweremadu, state executive members and legislators, traditional rulers and captains of industry were also present at the brief ceremony.
Briefing newsmen in Enugu, Okonjo-Iweala described the day as historic in the lives of the people of the South-East zone and thanked President Goodluck Jonathan for making the project a reality.
Anyim described it as a dream come true for the people of the South-East, while Ekweremadu said that the introduction of international flights in the airport would make it easy for the people to travel to any part of the world.
Ekweremadu said the National Assembly would ensure adequate budgetary provision was made to complete the new terminal building.
The Chairman of the South-East Governors’ Forum, Obi, commended the President for fulfilling his promise to Ndigbo.
Oduah said that more airlines would soon commence operation at the airport and announced that the Nigerian national carrier would start operation before the end of the year.
The host governor, Chime, said the flight was part of a grand plan to change the economy of the South-East zone positively.
In his remarks, the Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Ethiopian Airline, Esayas Hailu, said the airline would operate four times a week from Enugu to Addis Ababa.
Hailu said the Igbo were very enterprising and needed an outlet right from their doorstep.
He said that very soon the flight would go daily.
A passenger, Nicodemus Igboabasi, a businessman from Anambra State, applauded the Federal Government for making the day a reality.
Igboabasi said it would reduce the cost of doing business and the stress of travelling long distances to board international flights from the zone.
Various traditional groups performed at the ceremony.
The Enugu route will be the airline’s 46th African and the 76th international destination.