The Minister of State for Aviation, Mr. Hadi Sirika, monday said the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA) in Abuja would be closed between February and March next year to allow Julius Berger carry out repairs on the damaged runway.
Briefing journalists after an on-the-spot assessment of the runway, he said while the runway would still be put to use during the six months of rehabilitation, the airport would however be shut for six weeks between February and March, when the mid section of the runway would be reconstructed.
According to him, President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the reconstruction work through the emergency procurement procedure for work to commence because of the centrality and importance of Abuja to the general administration of the country.
He admitted that government cannot afford to close down Abuja airport for a long time, even though palliative repairs had been ongoing at the runway in the last three months.
The minister said: “From start to finish of the runway, it will take six months. However we will be using the runway almost throughout the period except for about six weeks when the runway will be closed. That is when we are going to do the mid-section of the runway.”
According to him, government had accepted the design done by the contractor, adding that the runway would last for more than 10 years on completion early next year.
On the six weeks closure of the airport to passenger traffic, he said Abuja bound passengers from any part of the world will use the Kaduna airport as alternative, explaining that robust arrangement had been finalised the with Kaduna State Government to convey the passengers to Abuja.
Sirika said: “It will cost government substantial amount of money but we thought in our wisdom that palliative approach is wrong because three years down, we will come back to do the same repairs therefore we decided to go for the bigger option which is to do structural repairs if the runway which will take about six months to complete.
The minister said the government was not unaware of the pains passengers are currently going through due to the non-availability of aviation fuel and the scarcity of foreign exchange which has also impacted on government finance.
While pleading for understanding, he said consultations were ongoing with oil marketers, the Ministry of Petroleum and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to resolve the crisis, adding: “Very soon, the country will be out of this, as we cannot be relying on Ghana for aviation fuel.”
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