Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, has said the Federal Government has no plan to extend the April 19, 2017 date set for the completion of repair works on the runway of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA) in Abuja.
This comes just as Minister for State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika promised to resign if contractors handling the Abuja airport runway repair fail to meet the six weeks deadline set for completion and commencement of flight operations.
The two ministers spoke at a stakeholders forum organised by the Aviation Round Table (ART) in Ikeja, Lagos, yesterday.
Said Mohammed: “I heard the rumour that re-opening of Abuja airport will be extended by18 weeks; that is not true. After six weeks, Abuja airport will be reopened,” he maintained.
The minister also said maintenance of the airport runway had long been neglected by successive governments, a trend, he said, made it imperative to shut it down completely if proper repair work had to be done. He also said about three weeks, out of the scheduled six weeks for the airport runway repair, is gone and that work has also progressed by about 50 per cent.
Sirika, in his remarks, assured that so much work had gone into consultancy and procurement of materials, prior to commence of the repair project, in order to ensure that the six weeks deadline was not extended.
“Nobody has extended anything on the Abuja airport runway re-opening deadline; our six weeks is six weeks. I believe we took the right decision and I am very comfortable we will achieve the six weeks target. I will resign if we don’t meet the deadline,” he added.
Sirika also said the runway, once completed, would last 10 years and explained that the choice of Kaduna International Airport, as alternate airport to Abuja, was based on ease of logistics and security.
“Minna is closer to Abuja, but, Kaduna has a straight road where Minna does not. Kaduna has the facilities, it has enough hotels, it was the capital of Northern Nigeria and it hosted the World Cup.
“That was why we opted for Kaduna, instead of Minna, Jos, Kano airports,” said Sirika.
President of the Aviation Round Table (ART), Mr. Gabriel Olowo, urged government to work hard, to ensure the presence of viable local airlines and airports in Nigeria. He said the local airline industry was not progressing and that foreign airlines have taken over the Nigerian sky and are making huge incomes, while local carriers are dying with hundreds of Nigerian jobs lost in the process.