Aviation minister vows to resign if Abuja airport is not opened after six weeks

The Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, has vowed to resign his appointment should contractors handling the repair works at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, failed to deliver on the set dates originally given.

This is coming after contractors handling the project promised to deliver same by April 19, 2017. Also, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has said the Federal Government was not planning to extend the April 19 deadline for the completion of the project.

The two ministers spoke, on Monday, at a stakeholders forum organised by the Aviation Round Table (ART) in Ikeja, Lagos State. According to Mohammed, “I heard about the rumour that the reopening of the Abuja airport will be extended by18 weeks; that is not true. After six weeks the Abuja airport will be reopened.”

Mohammed said the maintenance of the Abuja airport runway had long been neglected by successive governments, a trend that made it imperative to shut it down completely if a proper repair work that would last had to be done.

He said about three weeks out of the six weeks scheduled for the airport runway repair had already gone and that work had also progressed by about 50 per cent on the project.

Sirika, on his part, assured that so much work had gone into the consultancy and procurement of materials prior to the commence of the repair project in order to ensure that the six weeks deadline was not extended.

In the words of Sirika, “Nobody has extended anything on the Abuja airport runway reopening 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.

He said the runway once completed would last for the next 10 years before it would be spoilt in such a way as to necessitate its shutdown. Sirika explained that the choice of Kaduna Airport as an alternate airport to Abuja was based on the ease of logistics and security it would provide.

Said Sirika, “Minna is closer to Abuja, but Kaduna has a straight road where Minna doesn’t. Kaduna has the facilities; it has enough hotels. It was the capital of Northern Nigeria and it hosted the world cup. And that was why we opted for Kaduna instead of Minna, Jos or Kano airports.”

President for the Aviation Round Table (ART), Mr. Gabriel Olowo, in his speech, urged the Federal Government to work had to ensure the presence of viable local airlines and airports in Nigeria. He said the local airline industry was not progressing. According to him, foreign airlines had taken over the Nigerian sky and were making huge incomes, while local carriers were dying with hundreds of Nigerian jobs lost in the process.