by Dolapo Adelana
More than 43,000 passengers passed through the Kaduna Airport in its first 11 days of operations as the alternative to the Abuja Airport, according to the latest data submitted to the Presidency by the Federal Government Coordinating Committee overseeing the management of the Airport repair, closure and relocation.
A presidency official disclosed that this is more than the 41,000 passengers it recorded in the entire first quarter of 2015, and the 21,000 in the first quarter of 2016.
Also, during this period, about 10,000 passengers took advantage of the free Bus Shuttle organized by the Federal Government to transport passengers between the Abuja and Kaduna Airports.
The free Bus Shuttle conveys passengers between Abuja and Kaduna Airports, starting at the Abuja Airport at 6 o’clock in the morning, and at the Kaduna Airport from 8 a.m. The Shuttle takes 3 hours from Airport to Airport, and runs every 30 minutes, until the arrival of the last daily flight in Kaduna.
The Shuttle is in addition to the Federal Government’s free Train Service between Abuja and Kaduna. The two-and-half-hour Train Service departs Abuja’s Idu Station for Kaduna at 6 a.m., 11.55 a.m. and 5.45 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays; and departs Kaduna’s Rigasa Station for Abuja at 9 a.m., 2.50 p.m. and 8.40 p.m.
According to the report, the Federal Government’s Coordinating Committee, comprising senior officials of the Ministry of Aviation, its parastatals (FAAN, NCAA, NAMA, AIB), and security and emergency agencies (Police, FRSC, DSS, NEMA), is chaired by the Minister of State Aviation, Hadi Sirika, and has been meeting weekly to review operations, collate statistics, and implement internal and external feedback.
Also in its latest report, the Committee highlighted the deployment of 173 Police Patrol Vehicles, and 2,400 police personnel – drawn from the Police Mobile Force, Counter Terrorism Unit, Special Anti-Robbery Squad, and others – along the Abuja-Kaduna Highway and the Abuja-Kaduna Rail Line.
Equally deployed are 30 Police Motorcycles along the rail tracks, 2 Patrol Helicopters along the rail and road routes, and 10 Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) at strategic points on the routes, including the Airports and Train Stations.
The Abuja Airport runway was closed for operations on Wednesday March 8, 2017, to enable the reconstruction of the entire runway. Originally constructed in 1982, the runway has, until now, seen no repair works, despite the fact that it was built to last no more than 25 years. The reconstruction, being carried out by Julius Berger Nigeria Limited, has since commenced, and is now in its third week – halfway into the planned six weeks.
“The reconstruction is going according to schedule, and we are fully confident that the Abuja Airport will reopen after six weeks, as planned,” said a top presidency official involved in the presidential supervision of the airport closure and oversight, adding that the Aviation Minister of State Hadi Sirika, in particular has been working diligently to minimize the inconvenience caused by the closure.
After the Abuja Airport reopens for operations on April 19, upgrade works on the runway will continue for another 18 weeks. This second phase of upgrade works on the runway will be carried out at night, with no disruption to flight schedules, the Presidency official further disclosed.
The source added that a media tour to allow reporters observe and assess the progress on the Abuja Airport runway repair will hold this week, as the repair is about its mid-point on Weenesday.
The FG’s Coordinating Committee has launched a series of Customer Engagement initiatives to enable passengers and travellers affected by the closure get up-to-date information and updates. These include a Call Center (open 7am to 10pm Mondays to Fridays and 10am to 4pm Saturdays and Sundays), a website (AbujaAirportClosure.info), and a Twitter handle (@ABVClosure).
Dolapo is a writer and journalist who works with YNaija. He has interests in Christianity, politics and sports.