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FG dumps concession plans, votes N1b for Abuja airport runway repair

If there is anything to get from the recent move by the federal government in approving N1 billion for the repair of the runway at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, it may be the fact government has bungled plans for the concessioning of the facility.

In the last few months, the government had been forcing Nigerians to swallow the pill of supporting the planned concession of four major international airports including Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt.

Before now, observers have argued that the runway of the second busiest airport in Nigeria has been a source of embarrassment to the country, hence the need to immediately resurface it for the use of wide-body aircraft.

Already, the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, has set up a committee to oversee the rehabilitation, which would have traffic diverted to Kaduna aerodrome.

Stakeholders in the last couple of months had appealed to the government and Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to fix the runway and save foreign airlines the trauma of using the facility.

Two months ago, a South African Airways aircraft damaged its engine as it landed at the Abuja airport. Airlines with wide-bodied aircraft have since avoided the facility. Among them are Emirates and Kenya Airways.

Managers of the nation’s airports, FAAN had said the runway was in a bad state due to over-use, adding that efforts to build an alternative were underway. The committee is expected to schedule the maintenance dates, which will run for some weeks. Bidders for the project are Gilmore, Julius Berger and PW. The awardee might be decided this week.

 A FAAN official recently explained that “Government is making urgent effort to start the rehabilitation of the runway at the Abuja airport and government has provided funds for the work, which could start anytime from now.

“After the committee’s final presentation to the minister, he would be expected to discuss with the National Security Adviser (NSA) to agree on the date work would start on the runway.”The Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) will certify the project in 2017.

FAAN’s Acting General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Henrietta Yakubu, confirmed the rehabilitation plan, noting that all efforts were being made to ensure the runway was restored to international standards.