Chris Steven, Abuja
The Federal Government on Monday announced measures to ease the plight of passengers during the six weeks that the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja will be closed for the reconstruction of the sole runway.
The measures were announced at a joint press conference in Abuja, attended by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of State for Aviation Hadi Sirika, Representative of the Minister of Power, Works and Housing as well as the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris.
Passengers travelling between Abuja and Kaduna, where Abuja-bound flights will be diverted during the six-week closure starting on Wednesday, 8 March, will be provided with free bus and train service during the closure, Mr. Sirika said
There will also be adequate security, with the police deploying the air wing, the counter-terrorism and the special units to ensure the safety of passengers travelling between Kaduna and Abuja, according to the Inspector-General of Police.
It was also announced that the rehabilitation of the Abuja-Kaduna road has been completed and that the road is now very motorable
Explaining the need to shut the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport in Abuja for the reconstruction of its runway, the Minister of Information and Culture said it was due to the total neglect of the runway since it was built over 30 years ago.
“When an airport is built there is a maintenance schedule depending on the number of landings that have been made. After a particular number of landing there is what we call surface cleaning, which is done. After additional landings, we now do resurfacing, after that it is closed completely and we do reconstruction.
“In the case of the Abuja Airport, for 34 years neither surface cleaning has been done nor resurfacing and it has deteriorated, so what we are doing is total reconstruction and there is no other alternative than to close the runway,” he said.
For his part, the Minister of State for Aviation said adequate logistical arrangements have been made for the comfort and safety of all passengers
He said both the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) and the National Society of Engineers (NSE) have agreed with the government that the integrity of the Abuja Airport runway has been degraded and that the only way to ensure safety on the runway is total reconstruction.
Mr. Sirika said the government is adopting the Concession Model to ensure that all the airports in the country are rehabilitated to meet global best practices and safety.
“We are concessioning the entire airports in Nigeria that belong to government. We will begin by concessioning four. Concession means we will give it to a private entrepreneur who has the wherewithal, the know-how, the technology, the capacity, the ability, the finance to put up huge fantastic edifices as airports with everything including hotels, just the way you see them abroad,” he said.