After long hours of deliberation at plenary today, the Senate’s opposition to the total closure of the Abuja airport for repairs may not hold water anymore.
Exactly a week ago when the motion against the closure was first moved in the House, majority of the senators had opinions and suggestions about how repair work at the airport could be carried out without a closure. They were mostly disturbed about the insecurity in Kaduna and the state of the Abuja-Kaduna expressway that was to serve as an alternative for air travelers who land at the Kaduna airport.
We raised questions about the Senate members’ fears and anticipated the appearance of the concerned ministers before the House. Today, the Minister for Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Fashola and his Aviation counterpart, Hadi Sirika were on ground to make a case for the closure of the airport.
The Senators’ concerns
Senator Magnus Abe took the House on a memory ride to the closure of the Port Harcourt airport that lasted two years and was trailed by an embezzlement scandal. He recommended that the ministries involved consider the suggestion of a partial closure, pointing out that it was clear the Executive had made its decision and would not rescind it. Senator Shehu Sani also raised an eyebrow about the length of the project and enjoined the Aviation Minister to ensure it does not last longer than the projected six weeks.
For Senator Hassan Mohammed, the Abuja-Kaduna expressway that the Executive has promised to secure and repair still seems a danger zone.
Meanwhile Senators Dino Melaye and Solomon Adeola demanded to know the cost of the entire repair project. Dino Melaye also questioned the choice of Julius Berger company for implementing the project.
Others worry about the security of travelers in their transit from Kaduna to Abuja and the preparedness of the aviation ministry to take on this task.
All the answers
The president of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) who represented the body before the House suggested that the airport could be used while repair takes place and the taxiway could be upgraded to serve as a runway for smaller aircraft.
Meanwhile the MD of Julius Berger told the House that a partial closure would delay repair operations and the taxiway would be ineffective as a runway as most of the aircraft flown are big.
Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika took the stage to declare that the former administration of Goodluck Jonathan budgeted for the cost of the project. He added that the logistics involved in moving activities to Kaduna airport is to cost N1.1billion. He assured the Senators of safety and post-repair maintenance operations at the airport.
The Nigerian Police which was also represented by DIG Joshak Habila mentioned that there will be a deployment of 500 special police officers and 500 Hilux vans, in addition to three helicopters for VIPs who travel the route.
The senate reluctantly accepted the submission of the Executive, acknowledged it was technical advice but agrees with the NSE’s option of a partial closure.
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