No extension of closure of the Abuja airport runway……Sirika

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L-R, President, ART, Gbenga Olowo, aviation minister, Hadi Sirika and information minister and culture, Lai Mohammed during an intercative with ART members and the media in Lagos.

I will resign if deadline is not met……

The minister of state for aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika says there are no plan to extend the closure of the the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA) runway closure as being speculated in some quaters.

He said the re-opening of the airport after repairs on the badly damaged runway for 6 weeks still remains April 19th, adding that the reopening date as stated earlier is not negotiable.

Speaking at an interactive meeting with members of the Aviation Roundtable Safety, Initiative, ART organized by the minister of Information and culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, senator Sirika to further convince Nigerians that the date of reopening was sacrosanct said he will resign his appointment if the runway reconstruction was not ready on schedule.

“I believe we took the right decision. I’m very comfortable we’ll achieve the six-week target. It is six weeks of work, day and night. I will resign if we don’t meet the deadline. I’m committed,”

“I will resign if the deadline for completion of that runway is not finished in six weeks. I put all my integrity and commitment to get that runway ready in six weeks. I told people that this may rank as another eight wonder of the world.”
The airport was closed for traffic on March 8, 2017 and is expected to re-open on April 19, 2017.

He noted that the decision taken to shut down the runway was the right one, stressing that due diligence had been done to ensure that the work is delivered on record.
According to him, there was wide consultation, reflections, planning and discussions regarding the success of the project before embarking on it.

“Already, they have done three weeks of work on the runway and work has reached about 50 per cent of work. I told anybody that if we must close the runway, it has to be for six weeks. We cut down the time from 13 weeks to six weeks. People are working night and day to complete this job.”

He said that when completed, the runway is to last for 10 years, adding that of reopening, minor work will be still be ongoing without disruption to flights.

On the choice of kaduna airport as alternate to other states close by, Sirika said a lot of things were considered, distance and nearness to Abuja, motor able roads, comfort facilities, like hotels, seamless means of movement among others.

He observed that some states around Abuja, like Minna, Jos, Kano and even Nasarrawa did not have what help both operators and passengers and only kaduna meant what was needed, though not all but certain things had to be put in place to meet what was required.

“Minna is closer to Abuja, but Kaduna has a straight road where Minna doesn’t. Kaduna has the facilities; it has enough hotels, it was the capital of Northern Nigeria and it hosted the world cup. And that’s why we opted for Kaduna instead of Minna, Jos, Kano airports.”

“Kaduna airport is not the same as Abuja Airport. During this relocation, there is no way that the travelling public will not experience minimal discomfort. But, as a caring and responsible government, we have taken all the necessary measures to ease such discomfort. Thankfully, the efforts have paid off because operational disruptions have been minimal, despite the massive logistics involved in the relocation,”

Earlier in his opening remarks, minister for information and culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed reiterated government resolve to ensure the safety and security of passengers and other airport users.

“Transportation from Abuja to Kaduna and vice versa is free for air passengers, security along the Abuja-Kaduna expressway is such that there is a presence of security agents at short intervals, the expressway itself has been rehabilitated to ensure a smooth ride. Having travelled on that road at least twice since the relocation, the ride is smooth. The safety and security of passengers at the Kaduna Airport are paramount and guaranteed, as have been attested to by many.

He added,”We lay no claims to perfection. That’s why we are here to meet with
experts. We are ready to listen to them on what other measures they
think we can put in place to make the operations in Kaduna smoother
and, in the long run, to avoid this kind of total airport shutdown in the future”.

Alhaji Lai warned those peddling the rumour that the closure of the airport has been extended that they are doing a great disservice to the country.

“Let me use this opportunity to debunk the erroneous report making the rounds that the closure of the Abuja airport has been extended by 18 weeks. This is not true. The six weeks time line for the closure remains. After six weeks, the Abuja airport will be reopened. The remaining work on the runway will not necessitate the closure of the airport”.

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