No going back on closure of Abuja airport – Minister

Abuja Airport
Abuja Airport

Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, says the Federal Government will ensure the total rehabilitation of the Abuja Airport runway for smooth operations and deliver it in six weeks.

Mr. Amaechi, who acknowledged the pains closure of the airport would cause the economy, maintained that his Ministry would ensure the reopening after due rehabilitation is concluded in six weeks.

Mr. Amaechi gave the assurance when he appeared alongside his colleague Ministers at a town hall meeting organised by the Ministry of Information in Ilorin, Kwara State, on Monday.

According to him, “We are saying that the Abuja Airport runway was built to last for twenty years but we have been using it for thirty four years. It has become extremely dangerous to continue using it, the way it is right now. We need to close it to rebuild it and reconstruct it. The foundation is almost gone and what we are asking for is patience. If we don’t close it we will be exposing lives. One of the constitutional responsibilities of the President is to protect lives and property. So you can’t deny us that responsibility. We believe that if we close it by March, in six weeks’ time we shall be able to reopen it. We know it is challenging for our economy. We think that we will keep to that six weeks,” he said.

While explaining issues concerning Maritime, particularly in the North Central, Mr. Amaechi noted that his ministry was determined to commission the Baro River Port by the first quarter of next year.

“We met abandoned Maritime. Our target this year is that by first quarter of next year we shall be commissioning Baro River Port. We are in the process of awarding the contract for the last equipment that they will use at the River Port. NIWA is there working hard. I understand the sentiments of Baro. The only reason why we have not gotten the contractor at Lokoja part is that we don’t trust the contractor and I have directed NIWA to go and look for the process of terminating that contract and get a new contractor to complete the project and that mandate, we have from Mr. President.”

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“The other mandate that will interest you is the Central Railway Line, the Itakpe/ Ajaokuta Railway Line. If you go back there now the contractors are back to site. We have sent them back to site. That is a 32 years project. Under this government we have decided and agreed with the contractors that we will complete it first quarter of next year.

“Even Baro will be completed first quarter of next year. The other thing that will interest you is the Narrow Gauge Railway Line that transverses your state (Kwara) to Minna. We are about to start negotiations with General Electric (GE). The Narrow Gauge will start if we successfully conclude our conversation. Before the end of this year, from Lagos to Ajaokuta to Ibadan to Ilorin to Minna and onward to Kano we will revive that railway line”.

“We believe that between the first and second quarters we would have completed the negotiations and you will see more activities on the train. Once we conclude it, it will create employment. The other one that will also interest you is the Standard Gauge which everybody is glamouring for. We have awarded the contract for the Lagos to Ibadan Standard Gauge Line. By the time they complete that we will be awarding Ibadan to Ilorin and the prayer you should make is to ask the National Assembly to kindly approve for us the borrowing plan that was sent to them”.

“Out of that borrowing plan, 6.1billion dollars is meant for railway. For the Lagos to Ibadan, you have 1.5billion dollars. The loan has been approved by the China Exim Bank, the only thing holding us today is that the NASS is yet to approve the borrowing plan. As citizens from the North Central, please kindly appeal to the NASS to approve the borrowing plan”, he said.

‘When that is completed the next phase of the railway will be from Ibadan to Minna or Ilorin. Currently, we are also looking for loan to do Kano to Kaduna for that Standard Gauge Rail Line,” he said.

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