By Sade Williams
The Federal government has assured Nigerians that the proposed closure of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, will not be extended beyond the six-week period as planned.
Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika gave the assurance when members of the Coalition of Civil Society Group paid him a visit to register their support for the decision.
According to the Minister, rather than an extension, he was optimistic that the usability of the runway could be restored even before the expiration of the period.
“We will close it and we will be working day and night to ensure that we deliver the project and it will be six weeks and six weeks no more. It could even be less” he said.
He told the group that the airport runway has totally failed and was like a disaster waiting to happen, which was why government took the decision in order to ensure safety and avoid disaster in the sector, adding that closure of the airport for six weeks remained the only viable option.
The minister said that many critical stakeholders in the industry including Council for the Regulation of Engineering (COREN) and those versed in aerodrome engineering had agreed with the decision of the government in order to avert possible disasters.
“The Abuja airport runway is completely damaged, the entire structure and the architecture is gone and the runway has failed and it is just like a disaster waiting to happen”.
According to him, “no matter what it is, I will not sit back and fold my arms and watch disaster unfold while I superintend”.
“I believe that it is an executive function which should be carried out and I believe also that we should be responsible for our actions and inaction. If I don’t do anything it becomes inaction and will be equal to disaster”.
“If I act appropriately to save it, I will be meeting the expectations of the person who appointed me and of course the expectation of the Nigerian people that we serve,’’ he further said.
While appreciating the expected discomfort the closure will cause for the aviation community, Sirika advised that people should always endeavour to understand the issues involved before criticizing and opposing government actions, asserting that among different options canvassed by different stakeholders, it was best to temporarily shut down the airport based on the deplorable nature of the runway.
Sirika also advised the civil society groups to always cross check their facts with relevant bodies before commenting on important national issues, saying that the Freedom of Information Act has made access to government very easy.
President of the Coalition of civil society groups, Mr Bassey Atuk, had earlier told the minister that they were in the Ministry to be updated on developments in the aviation sector, being so critical to national development.
He also requested the Minister to throw more light on measures being taken to mitigate the expected inconveniences and discomfort to be experienced by air travellers as well as safety and security measures.
He, however, pledged the group’s support for the government on the closure of the Abuja airport for the repair of its runway which is expected to take effect from the 8th of March 2017 and appealed to concerned stakeholders to understand and support the government decision.