Foreign airline operators have rejected the Kaduna Airport as alternative following the plans by the Federal Government to close the runway of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja (NAIA) for repairs.
The operators say they would prefer Lagos, Port Harcourt and Kano terminals as alternative.
Speaking yesterday at the Stakeholders Forum organised by the Minister of State, Aviation, Hadi Sirika, the representative of foreign airlines operating in Abuja, Osho Joseph described the planned closure as a total disruption of their schedules and operations.
Joseph said the Kaduna airport did not have the necessary capacities for international flights.
“We’re supposed to learn from past experiences. We shouldn’t have waited this long before repairing the runway. We have individual concerns aside security issues. We believe Kaduna airport is an alternate airport for local airlines, but not foreign carriers,”Joseph said.
“Again, we ask, what arrangements are on ground in Kaduna to assist fuel marketers? Besides, since the thinking is to utilise the opportunity of the dry season, why not start the repairs in February and end in March?,” he queried.
Also speaking at the event, the Chairman, Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), Capt. Noggie Meggison, opined that the federal government should rather carry out the repairs in manner that only about half of the runway will be closed, leaving smaller airplanes to land on it.
“The Abuja runway should be repaired at night as done in other climes between 6pm-6am. Such is the style used in Gatwick airport in the UK. It handles 400,000 passengers a year. Abuja is about 4,000. If Gatwick can be done that way, why not Abuja? International airlines can fly into Kano and Lagos, and we’ll distribute passengers for them because Kaduna doesn’t seem to work for them.
“We should take another look at the cost of logistics and support. Runway of Abuja is 3,900 metres. Spilt it into two. We can fix each 2,000 metres in four weeks, while the other side remains operational. So, smaller airplanes like the B737s and CRJs can land. Kaduna can’t handle high volume of passengers and airplanes. We’re in total support of rehabilitation of the Abuja runway. It has become a safety concern and needs to be addressed,” he said.
The Minister of State, Aviation, Hadi Sirika, however, said total closure of the Abuja airport runway was inevitable, judging from the worrisome level of dilapidation.
“Structurally speaking, all the four levels are gone. It’s not theTOP layer we’re talking about here. It’s total repairs. The work-at-night repair approach has been in place for 14 years. The runway has outlived it’s lifespan. It was commissioned in 1982 and had a lifespan of 20 years. So, it has gone bad and has been patched for 14 years. If we don’t fix it now, it’ll shut down itself. Same happened to Port Harcourt Airport,” he recalled.
“We’ll increase the number of security personnel around Kaduna Metropolis; we’ll have traffic officials in every village and intersection. There’ll be members of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), fire fighters and ambulances at certain strategic positions. Police and the Air Force are to provide aerial patrols, complemented by ground police.
“There will be intelligence gathering. There will be bus coaches, train services, specialised car hire services and helicopter shuttles from private operators. But government will provide shuttles for passengers,” he assured.
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