THE Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja runway will be closed to traffic for six weeks in February and March, the first quarter of 2017 for total repairs according to the words of the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika.The Minister who was speaking to reporters in Abuja said that the closure became necessary to allow Julius Berger carry out total re-construction on the badly damaged airport runway as President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the reconstruction through the emergency procurement procedure for work to commence.
Sirika said that while the runway would be put to use under the six months of rehabilitation, the six weeks would allow the mid section of the runway to be reconstructed.
He said that this is because of the importance of Abuja to the general administration of the country as well as the economic implications of allowing the runway remain the way it is.
According to the Minister, government could not afford to close down Abuja airport totally for a long time as repairs had been ongoing at the runway in the last three months.
“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.”
“The government has accepted the design done by the contractor. The runway will last for than 10 years on completion early next year’’, he said.
Sirika said Abuja bound passengers from any part of the world will use Kaduna airport as alternative during the six weeks closure to passengers.
He said arrangement had been finalized with Kaduna State, adding that while the federal government will provide buses to convey the passengers to Abuja, the state government will provide security.
According to him, the repairs will cost government a substantial amount of money “but we think 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,” he said.
The economic implication of the damaged runway has become an embarrassment to the nation as it has cost several foreign airlines millions of dollars in damages.
Recently, the Regional manager of one of the foreign airlines gave the downside to the airline’s operational woes in Nigeria including the damage of four of its aircraft, one of which had to stay on ground in the country for repairs for eight days with the airline losing huge amounts of money.
According to him, the runway had damaged four aircraft and the cost of repairs for those aircraft were the responsibility of the airline which was serious to run its business as it could not wait for the airport authority or Nigerian government to fix their aircraft.
He said, that on its own the runway is taking its toll on operators and that it is about time work started on the Abuja Runway to ease the burden.