AHEAD of tomorrow’s stakeholders’ forum convened by the Minister of State, Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika to discuss the proposed closure of the Abuja Airport for rehabilitation, stakeholders are apprehensive of the choice to divert traffic to Kaduna Airport instead of Minna Airport.Stakeholders are also apprehensive of the fact that the Minister has already decided on where traffic should be diverted to instead of meeting stakeholders first to get their input on the best way forward.
According to most, the airport in Minna is far closer than that of Kaduna and by far safer due to current situations in both climes.
Managing director of Centurion Securities, Group Captain John Ojikutu (Retd) who sent a message on the proposed closure said the proposal for the rehabilitation on the runway was four years too late and if done at the right time, it would not have been as critical as it is now.
Ojikutu said, “Must we divert Abuja traffic to Kaduna? Why can’t the Minna Airport serve the purpose for the local flights after all it is closer to Abuja than Kaduna. The runway(Minna) will still accommodate aircraft whose takeoff and landing runs are within 1000 to 2000 metres.
Ojikutu, said that the choice of Kaduna for air traffic diversion would scare most of the foreign airlines away.
“Those that will bear the consequences of the rehabilitation are the international flights.
He further said that with the security issues in the northern parts of the country, none of the American and European airlines will fly to Kaduna.
He said, “While the domestic airlines may find Kaduna airport convenient, the current security threats in that state may not make the airport attractive to the foreign airlines particularly those from the EU and US.
“My only worry is that they want to use Kaduna for traffic and I ask the question, why can’t they use Minna? Minna may not be as good as Kaduna, but a 737 can land in Minna.
“For them to want to use Kaduna for foreign airlines, I have my doubts that the airlines will go there. It is for security reasons. The way security is built in the north is different from how we have built it here.”
“If the people that are creating problems all over the place want to draw world attention to themselves, they will go to that place and create the problem. The Americans and European airlines have their minds on that. They do not want a situation where they would be brought into the conflicts, in such a way as they will be used as scapegoats. So, they would rather go to Lagos to land,” he said.
Chairman, Governing Board of the Nigerian Aviation Safety Initiative (NASI), Capt. Dung Pam, said though temporary closure of the runway was for safety concerns, the effects would be too huge on the already troubled sector.
Pam said that the Kaduna airport would not be able to cope with the traffic that would be coming in, in terms of all the fixed-wing aircraft.
He said: “It is going to be a serious dislocation of the nexus of our air travel system. Every major airport in the country connects to Abuja and Lagos. So, to have that place completely shut down for six weeks will be a huge blow to travelling public. They will be the ones that will be the worst of.”
On the runway rehabilitation Ojikutu spoke,” The rehabilitation of Abuja Airport runway is coming rather too late based on the initial attempt to do so about 4 years ago. My worry is that, the runway like those in other airports has no safety management programmes which should include regular surface cleaning depending on the number of landings.”
“ There had been and there is a proposal to build a second Abuja runway for Abuja where the average landings per annum including that of Lagos is much less than 10% of the landings at Heathrow Airport. If there had been a safety management programmes for these runways, Abuja situation would not have been as critical as we have been told,” he explained.