The Senate on Thursday, January 12, 2017 received the Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi and the Minister of State, Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika. The duo appeared before the Chamber in honour of summon issued to them on Wednesday regarding the planned closure of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja. The Ministers were in the Chamber to shed more light on the planned policy to close the Airport for six weeks starting from March 6, 2017.
The first to address the Chamber, Minister of Aviation, Sen. Sirika; stated that the decision to repair the entire Airport runway was informed by the need to allocate adequate time, resources and consistency in executing the project with strict adherence to quality and timely completion of the project. He added that the presence of construction equipment poses great danger to lives and properties, hence the need to close the Airport during the period of work at the Airport to avert tragedy.
Sen. Sirika noted that closing the Airport within the period of reconstructing the runway is one of the best options considered by the Government. He disclosed that investigation reveal that more than 80 per cent of Abuja Airport passengers travel once in six weeks. He asserted that the choice of relocating to Kaduna Airport was done in consultation with key stakeholders of the Aviation industry.
Accordingly, the issue of security has been beefed up within, around and along the kaduna – Abuja Expressway, while security of the Airport structures has been fortified and security operatives strengthened, the condition of Hotels in Kaduna has improved, three new Ambulances have been stationed on standby in addition to a well-coordinated car hire services. While rehabilitation works on Kaduna – Abuja Expressway has begun and also the Kaduna State Government commenced rehabilitation of Kaduna Western bypass linking the Airport and the Expressway as well as the Kaduna – Abuja rail line. Also, shuttle bus services would be provided as palliative.
Sen. Sirika informed that the contract for construction of the Abuja runway will cost the nation N5.8 billion; adding that the project was earlier captured in the budget of 2015 presented by former President, Goodluck Jonathan at the cost of N2.2 billion but was not implemented. The Minister confirmed that the Kaduna Airport is in good condition to service both international and local flights; stressing that officials of the Nigeria Customs Service, Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), National Drug Law
Enforcement Agency, Fire Service, Quarantine Services and other stakeholders would be drafted to the Kaduna Airport for smooth operations.
The following Senators were among the law-makers that asked questions on the issue; Hope Uzodinma, Ike Ekweremadu, Barnabas Gemade, Sam Egwu, Godswill Akpabio, Dino Melaye, Biodun Olujimi, Abdullahi Sulaiman Hunkuyi and a host of others.
While assuring of the opportunity to ask questions, not only from the Minister of State, Aviation but the Ministers of Works, Power and Housing and Transportation as well as the Chief of Air Staff, Senate President, Bukola Saraki who presided over the session deferred the question and answer session to Tuesday, January 17, 2017 for the Chamber to have the necessary information that would form the bulk of the decision of the Senate on the matter.