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More confusion surrounds closure of Abuja airport as cost climbs toN1.1bn

Serial challenges are beginning to show up as time ticks over the trending decision to either close fully or partially; the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja for repairs of the main runway.

Whereas the Minister of State for Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika told Senate Tuesday that the relocation of operations of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport to Kaduna would cost over N1.1 billion, a new terminal for the Kaduna Airport is still under construction.

Investigations at Kaduna showed that uncountable cables are currently hanging from ceilings less than two months before it is due to become an aviation hub when the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja closes temporarily for runway repairs.

The Federal Government plans to shut the Abuja airport for six weeks from March 8 to repair its runway and divert flights to Kaduna, an airport used primarily for domestic flights, after airlines threatened to stop flying to the capital.

While explaining issues before the Senate, the minister said that the ministry had taken into account relevant agencies that would be deployed to facilitate the relocation.

According to him, the relocation will gulp N1.134 billion. The breakdown indicates that the Nigerian Railway Corporation is to gulp N100,326,400, Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) will take N237,247,216.21 while the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) will take up N325,000,000.

A total of N358,517,700 billion was allocated to the Nigerian Police Force and the Nigeria Immigration Service is to take N29 million Naira.

For bus hire services, Serika said the ministry will hire buses of the Federal Ministry of Transportation for N84 million naira, which brings the total figure to N1.134 billion.

But many of the senators who spoke still expressed displeasure with the closure of the airport stressing that it could be done without total closure of the airport.

At this point, the managing director of Messers Julius Berger Plc handling firm, Wolfgang Goetsch rose up to inform the lawmakers that the runway could be fixed without closing down the airport, depending on the required scale of repairs.

According to him, “It can be shut down in the night. The spot can be repaired in the morning and temporarily given back for usage.

“But for the state of the runway in Abuja, extent of damage and deterioration, the whole runway from one end to the other end is damaged.

“This means that if the method of spot repair is loose, you start from one side of the runway, lock it in the night and in the morning to open it up for traffic.”

In his submission, the idea is not coming without its peculiar challenge as it will cause the repair to last for about two and half years.

Earlier, the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) had called for partial closure instead of total, saying total closure will be like shutting down the seat of government.

NSE President, Engineer Otis Anyaeji, noted further that the absence of a second runway at the NAIA, meant lack of excess runway capacity to temporarily close down the only runway for repair.