The Federal Government on Monday announced its readiness to ensure seamless operation at Kaduna International Airport as Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja closes on March 8 for runway repairs.
The Minster of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, disclosed this during a World News Conference organided by the ministry in Abuja.
The news conference featured the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi; Minister of State, Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika and the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ibrahi Idris.
The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, was also represented at the news conference.
Mohammed said the Acting President had inspected Kaduna airport and the rail station to ascertain the level of readiness to ensure smooth operation during the six-week closure period.
He said that the summary of the findings during the inspection was that even though the airport might not be 100 per cent ready, its current state was suitable enough for the operation.
The minister also disclosed that the repair work on the Abuja-Kaduna highway had been completed to ensure smooth passage for Abuja bound passengers.
“As you are all aware, the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja will shut from the midnight of Tuesday March 7 to the Wednesday March 8 for the purpose of repairing the failed portion of the airport runway.
“During that time, Abuja flights will be diverted to Kaduna.
“On Friday, the Acting President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo inspected the Kaduna airport and the railway station to ascertain the state of readiness.
“The summary of the finding is that while the airport may not be 100 per cent ready, by the time Abuja airport is shut, it will indeed be suitable enough,’’ he said.
Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, said the government had concluded arrangements to provide free transportation service for Abuja-bound passengers to and from Kaduna.
Amaechi said that the train services would be rearranged to suit the flight schedules at Kaduna airport, adding that the train would be coming from Kaduna instead of the current arrangement.
He said the Kaduna airport runway was in perfect shape, adding that it was a portion of the terminal building that was yet to be completed as at Friday.
According to him, the work was nearing completion as at that day and the contractor promised to deliver it before the deadline.
The Minister of State, Aviation, Sirika, craved the indulgence of air travelers to bear with the government on the closure.
He said that the decision was for safety reasons, which is the key word in aviation sector.
The minister said the part of the Kaduna airport terminal building had been completed as at this morning, adding that much work had been done to ensure smooth operation.
According to him, the ministry has provided a dedicated website (www.abujaairportclosure.info) to update airport users on the operations at Kaduna during the period.
Sirika said the government had no other option than to shut the Abuja airport runway considering the level of dilapidation that had made it to fail completely.
He said that Kaduna airport would remain a seasonal international airport even after the six weeks period until it met the requirements to be a designated international airport.
According to him, Ethiopian Airline is the only foreign airline that has expressed its readiness to fly the airport so far but at the end we expect more to operate the airport.
The minister reiterated the government’s plan to concession all the airports for efficiency beginning from the big four such as Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt.
“We have already concluded the arrangement for the appointment of transaction adviser that will commence work in a matter of weeks,’’ he said.
The Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, assured that the police had made adequate security plans to ensure seamless operation between Abuja and Kaduna airports.
Idris said the police force had enough capacity and capability to carry out efficient surveillance on the road, the rail line and air during the six weeks.
According to him, he was in Kaduna on Sunday to conduct assessment of security in the airport, on the road and the rail at Jere and Idu stations.
“In the whole, our deployment on the ground is perfect because we have the various units of the Nigeria Police Force in charge of specialized units.
“We have the force Explosive Ordinance Department (EOD), we have the force animals in charge of dogs; we have the patrolling team and the mobile force as well as the air wing.
“As I stated, all the units are deployed fully on ground,’’ he said.