LAST year, the minister of state for the aviation ministry, Senator Hadi Sirika announced that the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport would be closed for six weeks. This, he said was to enable work to be done on the runway of the airport. The minister also said traffic would be diverted to the Kaduna airport, adding that discussions had been held with the Kaduna state government who would provide security while the federal government would provide buses to convey the passengers to Abuja. The closure would happen from March.
The announcement has since generated ripples with the different stakeholders balking at the idea. Airlines operators in the country said it was not necessary to close the airport reasoning that Gatwick airport in the United Kingdom which has only one runway like Abuja airport but with a higher traffic, was not closed during repairs.
A representative of foreign airlines also pitched in that closure of the runway would not be in their best interest adding that diverting air traffic to Kaduna could only be appropriate for local airlines. The senate equally invited the ministries involved- Power, Works, Housing, Transport and Aviation. Unfortunately, the issue has not been adequately resolved and further hearing would hold next week.
In all these, I want to align with those who said there was no need to close the airport. Closing the airport is just one of those instances when people at the decision making levels do not critically think issues through before making decisions on our behalf. It is the same problem that occurred with the Lagos-Ibadan expressway. There was no consideration for users or the citizens.
Commuters, drivers spent several hours around the Lagos axis of that road few weeks before the Christmas celebration because of the construction going on on the road. Many of them were robbed in the process because it never occurred to anybody to strategically place security operatives around the vicinity while the people were stuck in traffic. Such construction could have been done in the night as it’s always done in other climes. But it pleases our decision makers to inconvenience the citizens by embarking on such work without adequate planning.
This is the same scenario that would play out when flights are routed to Kaduna. Kaduna airport is not used to handling heavy traffic especially the International ones. Safety should thus be a major consideration.
Not only that, it is not too clear how the state government would ensure the safety of the passengers. One tends to ask how a state that could not adequately protect its own citizen with the orgy of killings going on in southern Kaduna, would extend such to air traffic strangers.
Like it was suggested by the airline operators, flights could continue during the day while construction is done in the night.
It is also lack of foresight that no thought was given to having an alternate runway at the Abuja airport which would have been of use now.
Abuja is the capital of the most populous nation in black Africa, it does not take rocket science to know that traffic would be high as the airport serves both the local and international airlines.
Most organisations, all the countries have their embassies in Abuja, international agencies equally have offices in Abuja, so air traffic in abuja is quite heavy and any decision that has to be taken should be critically considered, especially with safety as a major consideration.
On a last note, it is important that government takes a look at having another runway when the present issue is resolved.