IN spite of other available options being proffered by the Senate, aviation experts and critical stakeholders, the Federal Government has expressed its determination to shut down the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja (NAIAA) for a period of six weeks to rebuild its runway. Meanwhile, it has also stuck to its decision to use the Kaduna Airport to service air travellers to Abuja during the period.
Minister of Transport, Mr Chibuike Amaechi, who only last week was among Federal Government officials that appeared before the Senate to give details of the repair plan and listen to the views of Federal lawmakers, put speculations about the issue to bed last Monday after a Lufthansa Airlines plane lost a landing gear on the damaged runway. Amaechi said the FG has settled for total reconstruction of the runway, which was built to last for 20 years but has served for 34 years.
It is a shame of Nigeria that the only airport for our nation’s capital had only one runway. Not only that, we continued to use it without maintenance until this moment when it is at the point of total collapse!
An effort to construct a second runway ended in a fiasco in 2010 when it was discovered that a contract for it was hugely inflated to Naira 63 billion, compared to a total of N12 billion which was the total cost of the Dutse International Airport, Jigawa completed in 2014. The outrage which followed the contract scandal led to total abandonment of the project, thus throwing the proverbial baby away with the bath water, instead of correcting the anomaly.
The greatest concern is the security and safety of travellers who will be forced to commute from Kaduna to Abuja by rail or road. Apart from the astronomical increase in the fares they have to pay, air travellers will spend almost the whole day en route, instead of an hour or so.
There is also fear that, besides the high rate of accidents, kidnappings and highway robberies along the Kaduna – Abuja Expressway, terrorists might find that corridor attractive to shift their focus to. The law enforcement agents say they will deploy massively to provide security, but it is left to be seen how effective that measure will be.
Abuja is set to suffer a great socio-economic setback as a result of the myopia, corruption and incompetence of our leaders.
Our advice for all who have no compelling reason to travel to Abuja during the six weeks is to stay away. Meanwhile, the Federal Government should partner with the Nasarawa State Government to complete the Lafia Airport to serve as an alternative, while redoubling efforts to construct the second Abuja Airport runway.