Airport Closure: Senate debates govt’s plan, summons Amaechi, Fashola, 5 others

SenateFollowing plans to shut down the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport to allow full renovation of the facility, the Senate on Tuesday, summoned the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi and the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, and five other top government officials to appear before its committee to justify why the decision should not be halted.

The summon by the senate followed a motion sponsored by Chairman of Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff, Sen. Hope Uzodinma, and co-sponsored by five other senators.

Other top government officials summoned were the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar and Minister of State, Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika.

Others are Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mohammed Bello, Managing Director, Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and Managing Director of NAMA.

They are to appear before the Senate within two days to explain the reasons for the closure.

Presenting the motion, Sen. Uzodinma raised grave concern about the decision by FAAN to close the Airport for six weeks, beginning from March 6.

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He said while the effort to carry out repairs on the runway was a welcome development, closure of the only runway was unacceptable.

According to him, the closure of the only airport in the Federal Capital Territory(FCT) can trigger untold hardship on international and local travellers as well as dent the image of the country.

“A complete shutdown of the airport will impact negatively on international trade and related activities, with multiplier effect that can exact further pressure on an already recessed economy.

“Plans to divert Abuja bound flights to Kaduna will throw up the problem of logistics and security challenges, including endangering lives and properties of travellers.

“All options have not been exhausted to avoid the shutdown of the only airport at our national capital for six weeks.

“This is including the option of a technical package to allow skeletal air operations at the airport while most repair work is executed at night,” he said.

Supporting the motion, the Deputy Leader, Senator Bala N’Allah, said it was ridiculous that a capital city airport would be shut down because of renovation.

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He said the move would embarrass the most populous nation in Africa.

He urged the Minister of State for Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika to think outside the box to either reconstruct the runway in phases.

“If the news goes across the globe that the largest city is being shut down, it will create negative economic, political and social impact not to talk of security hazards of moving people to Kaduna Airport.

“It is time to create a good image and attract investment to the country rather than creating a negative image for the country.

“Meanwhile, the fire brigade approach to renovate Kaduna airport cannot withstand the number of flights that will land and take off.

However, the Vice Chairman Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Sen. Shehu Sani opposed the motion on the grounds that Kaduna was ready to host the whole nation as far as international flight was concerned.

He said, from the contribution to the motion, it was obvious that the elites were avoiding the problems they created for themselves.

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According to him, many of them were afraid of travelling by road from Kaduna to Abuja, should flights be moved to Kaduna, for fear of being kidnapped.

“This motion is more of an attempt to deny Kaduna the opportunity for people to see the beautiful landscape in the state,” he said.

In his remarks, the President of the Senate, Dr Saraki, commended the lawmakers for their contributions.

He also commended Sen. Sani for his view on the issue but insisted that considering all facts placed before the senate, complete closure of the airport would impact negatively on the economy.

According to him, “there is nowhere in the world, where airports are completely shut down.

“We do not need to go far. Our neighbouring country, Ghana, when it renovated its runway recently did not shut the entire airport.

“We must ensure that we do the right thing and those invited should meet with the Senate urgently because the idea of closure is not the best,” he said.