Senator Hadi Sirika, the Minister of State for Aviation, yesterday at the aviation stakeholders forum in Abuja, explained why the Federal Government decided to pick Kaduna International Airport as the alternative airport during the rehabilitation of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport between March 8 to April 19, 2017.
Siriki noted that the three other airports close to Abuja did not meet the criteria and standard set by the FG as alternative to Abuja. The airports are the Minna Airport in Niger State, Yakubu Gowon Airport in Plateau State and Ilorin Airport in Kwara State.
“Niger and Kwara states are probably thinking they are better alternatives, they are very good alternatives for sure but unfortunately, there are quite a number of criteria we looked at which the other airports did not meet before we chose Kaduna.
“The three are good airports close to Abuja but they simply did not meet with the criteria we used. Minna, Ilorin and even Jos airport as well.”
Stakeholders however disagreed with the Federal Government, expressing opposing views on the airports and total closure of the Abuja Airport.
The Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja was initially built in 1982 with a lifespan of 20 years. The airport has been in use without rehabilitation for over 34 years, which means it has worked for 14 years more than its initial design.
The Airport needs rehabilitation because it has damaged runway that damages aircrafts when landing. According to the Federal Government, it has received several complain and it needs urgent attention as few aircraft are reportedly stopping operation to Abuja airport.
“On December 4, 2013, a Saudi Arabian cargo plane damaged its landing gear in a major incident at the Abuja airport runway, which led to the closure of the airport for several hours, from the night of December 4 to the evening of the following day.
“In August 2016, there was also another major incident involving South Africa Airways flight that got damaged when it landed on the same Abuja airport runway.
“Just last year, Emirates aircraft was also damaged when it landed on the same runway and it was one of the reasons the airline gave for stopping operations to Abuja airport, while other international airlines were considering pulling out of Abuja airport like the Kenya Airways because of the dangerous runway and multiple incidences of landing gear damages that had been reported by operators of private jets caused by the poor condition of the Abuja runway.
“This administration with safety and security as its priority, has decided to face the problem head-on. The cooperation of all stakeholders is, therefore, required to enable us go through this transition period with minimal discomfort.