Stop planned closure of Abuja airport, aviation unions tell Buhari

Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja
Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja

The unions in the aviation sector on Friday kicked against the plan by the Federal Government to close the runway of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, for repairs.

The unions said the planned closure of the airport scheduled to begin from March 8 for a six-week period would be counter-productive for the nation’s economy.

They made their position known in an open letter addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari and obtained by the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, in Lagos.

The letter was signed by Olayinka Abioye, General Secretary, National Union of Air Transport Employees, NUATE, and Frances Akinjole, General Secretary, Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association of Nigeria, ATSSSAN.

It was also signed by the General Secretary of the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers, NAAPE, Aba Ocheme.

“Your Excellency, we hasten to use this open medium to draw your attention to the proposed closure of the Abuja airport for turnaround maintenance of the runway for six weeks out of the six months that work shall continue at the said airport,” the unionists said in the letter.

“The necessity for the proposed exercise could not only be due to the audit findings against our country, but more importantly, as a long overdue safety measure, which we appreciate.

“While we accept that the Abuja runway has turned bad and requires a quick fix, our unions are of the opinion that total closure of the airport should be the last ineluctable option in repairing the international airport’s runway.’’

According to them, stakeholders were not carried along by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) before the decision to close the airport was taken.

The unions suggested that instead of a total closure of the airport, an additional runway should be effectively considered for construction as a long term measure while the subsisting one continues to be put in use, under some phased reconstruction.

They said: “Skeletal repairs of the runway could be adopted by allowing the airport for use likely between 6.00am and 6.00pm while fixing of the major damaged portions of the runway continues during the nights.

“This has been done in several parts of the world. Why should Nigeria’s case be different?

“Our opinion is premised on the fact that the proposed exercise, being a reactive formula, can be achieved without total shutdown of the international airport.

“The consequential effect of such total closure will impact so grandiosely negatively on the already dire economic environment of Nigeria, given the dependence of several low and middle income earners on aviation business in and around Abuja airport,’’ the union leaders said.

According to them, the aviation agencies will also be deprived of their internally generated revenue during this period while some low business operators will lose their businesses completely and forever.

The unions said: “we do not wish to believe that your government will set out to jeopardise the livelihood of its citizens at such dire time as this.

“Total closure of an international airport, particularly Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja in an ailing economy like ours will be counter-productive at this period.

“It is obvious that the volume of operations at the Abuja airport cannot be accommodated by the size and facilities of Kaduna Airport (Domestic and International).’’

They further argued that other issues such as operational cost to airlines, sales of tickets to passengers as well as passenger insurance have not been well thought out.

“Therefore, sir, it is our candid submission that the whole hoopla about Kaduna being an alternate airport to Abuja is all but a hoax.

“In reality, most persons, especially international travellers, but also senior important local personalities, will simply shelve all activities in Abuja for the six weeks of closure.

“Then the whole investment in Kaduna airport will be in vain. The airlines, aviation agencies and other businesses around aviation will lose colossal sums of money.

“Some businesses will fold up and be unable to recover. This situation must be avoided by all means in our considered view,” the unions said.

(NAN)


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  • dami

    Over reaching union!
    Another pervasive problem we have in Nigeria…everyone is an expert on what they know nothing about…how is a six week closure more detrimental to the nation than using a defective runway? They have published no facts with numbers to back up their claims only general selfish headers…The runway will last years (if done properly) so a six week sacrifice to gain years of safety is a no brainer…pls Mr and Mrs union have a nice weekend.

    • ccc

      When the international airport falls into the axis of bokoharam and they kill a prominent yurobber statesman then will your eyes open.

      • dami

        Illiterate joker! As if that is one of the reasons mentioned by the union…and moreover the kaduna airport has been functioning without incident thus far….oya talk another one…or better still think it through properly before you put it down in black and white.

    • Charlie

      Many major airports in the world with 100 times more traffic than Abuja have single runways and I’ve never heard that one was shut down for a whole day before. I have designed concrete mixes that could take a fully loaded 747 four hours after casting for airports and roadways in the US using locally available materials in Nigeria, and I am sure there are people in Nigeria that can do the same (it is not rocket science). it is unnecessary to shut down the airport for six weeks. They can do all works at night or if necessary, shut down for a day or two to repair sections that require extensive preparations.

  • musa aliyu

    Mtchewww. Yeye dey smell. In an ailing economy like ours how can we build alternative runway @prices above $2billion? Was that not what yaradua and Jonathan quoted and couldn’t do? If traffic shifts to how is the revenue lost, after all it will still be captured in Kaduna? The union should just tell us they will lose their egunje for6 weeks, and that they cannot swallow the bitter pills.

  • Irele ati ITELORUN

    Mr Union Leader, have you seen the Bill of Quantity for the repairs? The extent of works & details? My guess is no.
    How then can you be authoritative on ignorance? Nigerians are better informed than over fed people talking without facts.
    How much will a 2nd runway cost us? No idea? Pls engage Nigerians with facts, logic and good reasons always.

  • blueeyedkitten

    what do people actually want in this country?

    • Okokondem

      Explain what you mean. Are you in favor of shutting down the only airport in the capital city of Abuja for 6 weeks, or are you against it, and while you are at it, give your reasons for your position on the subject.

      But for goodness sake don’t just ask a question like you are in kindergarten. Be a constructive part of the dialog.

      • blueeyedkitten

        its none of your business how i choose to react to any news item here.
        why dont you practice what you’re asking of me first?

  • Gary

    The aviation unions opppse the total closure of the Abuja Airport as do the Nigerian Society of Engineers.
    Yet the minister goes against expert opinion to press ahead with his preferred option of shutting down the only airport in the Nigerian capital for almost two months.
    A proposal that is unheard of anywhere in the world. And he’s rushed to gain approval of the FEC to go ahead with his halfcocked idea to divert air traffic and operations to Kaduna airport.
    As if they can force air passengers and foreign airlines to comply with that. So what happens if they don’t? You’ll shut down business and air travel to Abuja for almost two months and needlessly prolong the recession.

    Too often we have policy-makers with a military mindset: expecting others to jump on their command. All because they have the IQ of an ant. Even ants do a better job of strategic planning and organizing.

  • Gabriel Olasebikan

    “….. issues such as operational cost to airlines, sales of tickets to
    passengers as well as passenger insurance have not been well thought
    out”.

    Yet we are said to have a minister of aviation.Deal gone bad.