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Abuja Airport Closure: Watch Nigeria’s Aviation minister, Senators argue over shutdown

The ongoing talks between the Senate and the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, over the planned closure of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, by the Federal Government, on Thursday, ended in a deadlock.

Though the Minister who appeared before the Senate gave a detailed explanation on why the airport will be closed for six weeks, both parties could not however agree on some concerns raised by lawmakers.

During the question and answer session, Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, queried Sirika on the cost of ferrying passengers from Kaduna to Abuja during the closure of Abuja Airport.

“Can you please, give us the breakdown of the financial cost, specifically how much you intend to spend in conveying passengers from Kaduna Airport to Abuja during the closure of Abuja Airport? We need to know,” Ekweremadu had queried the Minister.

Sirika’s inability to provide a breakdown of the financial cost, led to the suspension of the talks between the two parties. President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki who presided, told the Minister to get the necessary documents and return next Tuesday so as to enable both parties take a final position on the issue.

Saraki, while expressing concerns, revealed that he has been bombarded with calls from Nigerians and ambassadors on the security implication of diverting local and international flights to Kaduna Airport.

Saraki noted: “All around the world, international airports are not closed. From Europe to our neighbours in Ghana, they do not close airports. We also want to know how you will handle the security concerns expressed about Kaduna Airport. Nigerians and our partners across the world have expressed worry. Ambassadors have reached out to us to express their concerns.”

Responding, Sirika said: “This work is not for six weeks, but six months. But the closure is for six weeks. This is to enable us work on the runway. We have gotten to a critical stage where we can work on the airport and allow planes to fly. We want to take advantage of the dry season to quickly work on it. If we do not take advantage of this opportunity, we will have to wait till the next dry season.

“Nigeria has closed its runway before. Airport International Airport runway was closed for over two years. That airport is not less important than Abuja Airport.

“We have been meeting with every stakeholder for at least two months. Kaduna Airport will be the alternate airport within this period. We had an incident on the runway of Abuja Airport.

“We have a huge responsibility to do what is good. The two options of working at night and opening the airport during the day will not work. The other reason is that we are constructing and not necessarily repairing. Its going to a construction sight.

“We will have equipment all over the airport and this is dangerous. There will be incidences that will cause accidents. If anything goes wrong, we will be held responsible. We just had seven incidents which were attributed to windshield.

“For a high travel individual, he will only have to do this for six weeks in his entire life. We are working with security agencies and Ministries, religious leaders and Government of Kaduna State.

“We will have at every intersection, traffic controllers. At every interval, we will have security agents, ambulances and other things in place. The Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing has been mandated to work on Abuja-Kaduna road.

“Within this period, we will provide free rail and bus services for passengers. We will provide helicopters for high network individuals.”

On his part, Ekweremadu urged the Minister to tell lawmakers the cost of the repairs of the runway. Ekweremadu further asked the Minister to explain why other runways across major airports in the country were not getting the same attention given to Abuja Airport. He equally wondered why an international airport will have a single runway.

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