Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said he was ready to resign if the Abuja airport runway is not fixed within the six weeks slated for completion of work on the facility. Sirika also disclosed that the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos is in line for certification in May while that of Abuja is expected to be the next in line for certification, December 2017.
Sirika spoke yesterday when he and the Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, met with the apex aviation think-tank comprising highly respected aviation veterans.
He said work on the Abuja airport was going smoothly, stressing that he staked his reputation and everything he has to ensure that the facility is ready by April 19.
The minister explained that the decision to close the runway for repair was a painful one, stressing that safety was what the President looked at to agree that the runway be closed for total repairs.
His words: “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 eighth wonder of the world. “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.” Sirika explained that to make the job faster, the Federal Government chartered two cargo airplanes that gulped N150 million to transport equipment that would make the job faster.
The minister denied report in the media (not in New Telegraph) that government had extended the completion of the job by another four weeks, describing it as false.
“That we allow the runway to deteriorate so badly showed irresponsibility on the part of people whom should have taken action to remedy the situation.
“How can we allow the Abuja airport to deteriorate so badly? That is highly irresponsible of us. I knew that one day, that runway would be closed.The entire architecture of the runway was almost gone. Mr. President was particularly worried about the situation and it was very easy to allow for the shutdown of the facility,” he said. Speaking at the event, Mohammed refuted reports in a section of the media that the ongoing reconstruction of the runway has been extended from six to 18 weeks.
The minister said the six-week timeline for the reopening of the airport would be adhered to. “Let me use this opportunity to debunk the erroneous report making the rounds that the closure of the Abuja airport has been extended to 18 weeks. This is not true. The six-week timeline 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,” he said. Mohammed said the reconstruction of the Abuja airport runway is nearing its halfway mark, adding: “We are on course to reopen the Abuja airport for flight operations on schedule.”
He said the government would continue to engage Nigerians, including the critical stakeholders in the aviation industry, and give them up-to-date and factual information concerning the closure of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport.