Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Serika yesterday told Senators that the Nnmadi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja must be closed for six weeks to repair its runway, saying all necessary arrangements have been completed.
The Senate had on Tuesday summoned Sirika along with other Ministers over the move by the Federal government to close the Abuja International Airport in March and divert flights to Kaduna.
Briefing the Senate yesterday, Sirika said Kaduna airport was the best option and assured the Senators of the safety and security of passengers.
“The entire architecture of the runway from bottom to top has collapsed. It is totally unsafe to continue to use the runway. The action we have taken is the best, right and in the interest of Nigerians,”he said.
Sirika who was grilled for about three hours by the Senators said the closure of the airport would only last for six weeks and repairs of the 3,600 metres runway would take six months.
Faulting the claim that no airport has ever been closed for runway repairs, Sirika said the Port Harcourt International Airport was shutdown for two and a half years during the last administration.
Before selecting Kaduna for the flights diversion, Sirika said all the necessary options were weighed but that the airport was picked because of its proximity and facilities.
He said the terminal of the Kaduna airport that is being repaired would be completed by next month.
Assuring passengers of their safety, he said more security personnel and road safety officials would be deployed to Kaduna - Abuja road,saying helicopters would be used for aerial patrol by the police.
“We will provide train service, buses and helicopter to be paid by government to passengers, “he said and that Kaduna road would be fixed before the diversion of flights.
When the Senate President, Bukola Saraki asked him whether there are no other options, he said, “ the other options are (1) to close the airport by 12 midnight and open it by 6.am (2),divide the runway into parts. But in our opinion all these options will not work. We have to do the right thing.
“ As far as we are concerned, the runway has failed and the best option is to close it for six weeks. I’m an Aviator and I know what it takes to close an airport,”he said.
On the cost of the repairs, he said it would cost N5.8billion and that N1.2billion was budgeted for it in 2015 by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.
He said the balance of N4.6billion would be factored into this year’s budget. Asked on the cost of movement of flights to Kaduna, he said he does not know the exact amount.
If you are happy to be contacted by a Daily Trust journalist please leave a telephone
number that we can contact you on. In some cases a selection of your comments will
be published, displaying your name as you provide it and location, unless you state
otherwise. Your contact details will never be published. When sending us pictures,
video or eyewitness accounts at no time should you endanger yourself or others,
take any unnecessary risks or infringe any laws. Please ensure you have read the
terms and conditions.