Hadi Sirika, minister of state for aviation, says the runaway of the Nnamdi Azikwe airport, Abuja, exceeded its lifespan in 1996.
Sirika, who made this statement while speaking at the senate, explained that the runway was constructed in 1982 — with a lifespan of 14 years. He said continued operations at the airport would be unsafe and unreasonable, as incidents are recorded daily.
Noting that the proposed repair of the runway would cost N5.8billion, Sirika said the runway repair was “as critical as the economy of the country”.
The minister gave a guarantee of 10 years, saying that the runway would serve the country for a long time after the repair. He said the runway, which is proposed to be shutdown in March, will be reopened after six weeks for better service delivery.
He said that while the runway would be shutdown for six weeks, repairs would last for six months.
He assured the public that unlike the Port Harcourt Airport, which was shutdown for two and half years because the runway got bad, the repair of the Abuja runway would take only six weeks.
“Closure of runway is not new. It is done all over the world. The action is in the best interest of Nigeria,” Sirika said.
“The runway is in dilapidated situation and poses security and safety threat to Nigerians. We will complete the maintenance work in six weeks; we will work day and night.”
Sirika further said that while the Abuja airport remains shut, the Kaduna airport would serve as an alternative.
He added that the ministry of aviation was collaborating with immigration, ministry of agriculture, police and other relevant stakeholders for smooth operations at the Kaduna airport.
The airport had earlier been closed for three days, and also for another 30 hours, with the Kaduna airport announced as alternative.
The senate had expressed reservations about the decision to close the airport and summoned three ministers: Babatunde Fashola, the minister of works, power and housing, Rotimi Amaechi, the minister of transportation and Hadi Sirika, the minister of state for aviation.
“Senate is worried that a six-week outright closure of a major and the only airport in the Federal Capital Territory can trigger untold hardships on air travellers,” a motion by the senate read.
“The senate is determined to explore all other possible options that can avert the planned total closure of a strategic national airport for six weeks.”