At the Senate plenary session today, the topic of the closure of the Abuja airport for renovation was brought to the fore in a motion sponsored by Senator Hope Uzodinma representing Imo West Senatorial District. The Senate is worried that the intentions of the Ministry of Aviation will “cause air travelers untold hardship and endanger the lives and property of travelers who ply the Abuja-Kaduna motorway”.
The Senate is convinced that the repair works can be carried out while the airport is still in use. Senator Sam Anyanwu who seconded the motion supported his argument using J.F Kennedy Airport’s repair period as an example. He argued that the airport was not completely shut down to travelers during the period. For Senator Dino Melaye, closing an international airport down for a proposed six weeks is an embarrassment to the country.
After all deliberations made, the Senate resolved that all ministers involved (Aviation, Transport and Power, Works and Housing) should appear before the House in two days.
That said, there are so many questions on our minds as regards this development and based on some of the arguments raised by Senate members. Here are some of them:
Now that it’s clear that our devils have come back to haunt us, it’s interesting to see some of the Senators admitting that the Abuja-Kaduna expressway is a danger zone and travelers should not be diverted to ply the road. At the time the Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika announced the Federal Government’s alternative plans for the repair period, he stated that President Buhari had already approved the rehabilitation of this road. So the question is: “Why does it have to take a major need like this one to prompt FG to act on a defect that has claimed lives over the years?”
The unrest in Southern Kaduna equally arose and Senate members kicked against putting travelers literally in harm’s way. This challenge was already addressed by the Aviation Minister, stating that the FG and Kaduna state government are working together to provide security around the airport and enroute Abuja. The question here is: “Can we trust two governments that have failed to secure the lives of Southern Kaduna citizens through these years of continued attacks, to secure lives and properties of Nigerians in transit across the state?”
What is equally confusing is that all the concerns raised by the Senate today had been addressed by the Aviation Minister as seen above. So has the ministry and the executive failed to convince the Senate of the capability to execute all the plans that will make the repair and transit operations seamless? Or is the Senate just completely unaware of the ministry’s plans?
The Senate now has strongly suggested that the airport should be “managed” while repairs are ongoing. We are concerned about the capability of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the Ministry of Works to manage both operations successfully.