Senate opposes Abuja airport shutdown; summons Amaechi, Fashola

Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi
Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi

The Senate on Tuesday summoned the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, to appear before it within two days over the planned closure of Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja for six weeks.

This followed a motion sponsored by Chairman, Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff, Hope Uzodinma, and co-sponsored by five other senators.

The Senate also summoned the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, Chief of Air Staff, Sadique Abubakar, and Minister of State, Aviation, Hadi Sirika, on the issue.

Others also invited are, Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mohammed Bello, Managing Director, Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and Managing Director, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA).

Presenting the motion, Mr. Uzodinma expressed concern over the decision by FAAN to close the Airport for six weeks, beginning from March 6, to carry out repairs on the runway.

He said while the effort to carry out repairs on the runway was a welcome development, the closure of the only runway was unacceptable.

According to him, the closure of the only airport in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) can trigger untold hardship on international and local travelers as well as dent the image of the country.

“A complete shutdown of the airport will impact negatively on international trade and related activities with multiplier effect that can exact further pressure on an already recessed economy.

“Plans to divert Abuja bound flights to Kaduna will throw up logistics and security challenges, including endangering lives and property of travelers.

“All options have not been exhausted to avoid the shutdown of the only airport at our national capital for six weeks.

“This is including the option of a technical package to allow skeletal air operations at the airport while most repair work is executed at night,’’ he said.

Supporting the motion, the Deputy Leader, Bala N’Allah, said it was ridiculous that a capital city would be shut down because of renovation.

He further said that the move would embarrass Nigeria, the most populous nation in Africa.

Mr. N’Allah urged Mr. Sirika to think outside the box to reconstruct the runway in phases.

“If the news goes across the globe that the largest city is being shut down, it will create negative economic, political and social impact,’’ he said.

This, he said, would be in addition to security hazards associated with moving air travellers to Kaduna Airport.

He said that, “the fire brigade approach to renovate Kaduna airport cannot withstand the number of flights that will land and take off.

However, the Vice-Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Shehu Sani, opposed the motion on the grounds that Kaduna was ready to host the whole nation as far as international flight was concerned.

He said that from lawmakers’ contribution to the motion, it was obvious that the elites were avoiding the problems they created for themselves.

According to him, many of them were afraid of travelling by road from Kaduna to Abuja, should flights be moved to Kaduna, for fear of being kidnapped.

“This motion is more of an attempt to deny Kaduna the opportunity for people to see the beautiful landscape in the state,’’ he said.

In his remarks, the president of the Senate, Mr. Saraki, commended the lawmakers for their contributions.

He also commended Mr. Sani for his view on the issue but insisted that considering all facts placed before the senate, a complete closure of the airport would impact negatively on the economy.

Mr. Saraki said,“There is nowhere in the world where airports are completely shut down.

“We do not need to go far. Our neighbouring country, Ghana, when it renovated it’s runway recently, did not shut the entire airport.

“We must ensure that we do the right thing and those invited should meet with the Senate urgently because the idea of closure is not the best,’’ he said. (NAN)


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  • Hah!

    Are the Senators aware that Abuja Airport has only ONE runway? Senator Bala Naalla who is a pilot knows quite well that he is economical with the truth.

    • Okokondem

      And you, whoever you are, I get peeved by the kind of remarks you just made with total disregard for any other reason cited in opposition to shutting down the only airport in the capital city. If everyone says shutting down the entire airport is not an option in today’s world, it is incumbent on the ministry of aviation and the airport authority to find out what cities and other countries do in a similar situation. Build another runway first for goodness sake to take the pressure off the bad one, and then repair the old one. Is that so difficult?

      • Hah!

        Build another one from which Budget? Have you forgotten that all the reserve was stolen by the thieving politicians/ civil servants?
        2. Have you not seen the status of the runway? Big damaged portion /potholes? Is it not safer to close it and repair or recast the runway complete. My brother I’m just worried. The Senators are just afraid of travelling by road even if it is a journey of 45Km.

  • Okokondem

    You will be hard pressed to find where a major airport, let alone the only airport serving the capital city of such big country with large population, completely closed down even for one day simply to repair the runway. Someone even sighted Ghana, our good old Ghana, for working on their runway without shutting down the entire airport.

    Nigeria and Nigerians have not only become accustomed to but quite frankly are comfortable doing things the rest of humanity find befuddled.

    Finally, and thanks to some of the senators for questioning why anyone in his right mind would make such senseless proposition.

    Both Washington Dulles International airport and Ronald Reagan Washington National airport underwent extensive renovations, including major additions to the terminals, and at no time did the airports shut down.

    • Pointnoire70

      Banjul did the same thing in 2007, the work was carried out at night and by 8 AM the runway is reopened this went on for almost six months but the job was done

      • aisha ani

        And that is The Gambia!

  • Ibukun Bandele

    WHAT A BUINCH OF USELESS FOLKS, NIGERIA, I TIRE

  • joelaw

    Senator Shehu Sani, please be reasonable, we are talking here of serious logistical problems and security for local and international travelers. It is pedestrian to start talking of beautiful landscape. Senate should shoot down this horrible idea, the repairs must be done in phases and at night.