Nairametrics| After the Federal Government had given vague details at best concerning the closure of the Nnamdi Azikwe Airport in Abuja, harsh criticism followed especially after Kaduna was selected as the alternate airport of choice for flight operations for the duration, the FG has opened up on more reasons why it had to close the airport down and palliative measure it put in place to ensure that passengers will not suffer the brunt by addressing 2 major controversies stirred by the decision.
One of the primary questions that has always been asked has been ‘Must the airport be completely closed for 6 weeks?’ The President of the Airlines Operators of Nigeria (AON), Captain Nogie Meggison made the same observation, that it could have been repaired in the night as the practice in some countries. He gave an instance of Gatwick Airport in London that handles 400,000 passengers annually while Abuja only handles 40,000 passengers. “If that amount of passengers is moving in and out of Gatwick Airport annually and the airport has not closed down, it is better we look into it again before we move out of Abuja because of the logistic reasons. The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, however, noted that the repair was from surface to bottom, unlike the Gatwick case, which was just surface repairs. As such, a partial closure would last for up to 6 months as against 6 weeks proposed
The other controversy revolves around Kaduna’s suitability as an alternate destination considering the security issues in the state, the bad condition of the Kaduna-Abuja road and its inexperience in handling flights of such volume. On these issues, the Minister said arrangements had been made for arrival and departure of passengers as free shuttle buses would be provided to augment train services. He said that helicopters would also be provided for those who could afford them. If these measures are put in place, they would ease the plight of Abuja-bound air travellers who would be made to access the Federal Capital Territory through Kaduna. Sirika also said the Ministries of Transport and Power, Works and Housing would fix the dilapidated Kaduna-Abuja Expressway before February, adding that the Kaduna airport would be provided with 24 hours electricity supply.
With these explanations, Nigerians have more insight into the issues surrounding the FG’s decision to shut the airport down. However, as with government promises, Nigerians are always skeptical of actual implementation. As such, doubts will continue to follow the decision until the project is actually carried out.