The Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, will be shut down between February and March 2017 in order renovation of its landing strip, the Federal Government has said.
According to the government, parts of the runway are badly damaged and would be repaired by Julius Berger for six weeks.
The Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, told journalists on Monday that while the runway would still be put to use during its rehabilitation, the airport would, however, be shut for six weeks between February and March, 2017, when the mid-section of the runway would be reconstructed.
He said the President had approved the reconstruction through the emergency procurement procedure for work to commence on the facility due to its economic and administrative significance to Nigeria.
Sirika 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.”
On the six weeks closure of the airport to passengers, the minister said Abuja bound passengers from any part of the world would use the Kaduna airport as an alternative.
He explained that a robust arrangement had been finalised with the Kaduna State Government to convey Abuja bound passengers to the Federal Capital Territory.
Sirika added, “It will cost the government a 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 of the runway, which will take about six months to complete.”
The minister stated that the Federal Government was not unaware of the pains passengers were going through due to the non-availability of aviation fuel and the scarcity of foreign exchange, which had also impacted negatively on the country’s finance.
While pleading for understanding, he said consultation was ongoing with oil marketers, the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Central Bank of Nigeria to resolve the crisis.
“Very soon, the country will be out of this as we cannot be relying on Ghana for aviation fuel,” Sirika said.
On the Bilateral Air Service Agreement with other countries, he stated that the government had signed BASA with 18 nations that Nigerians frequently visited and did business with.
“With this we have the freedom to fly and land safely in other air spaces and this will assist in opening up our market,” Sirika added.