The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, revealed on Monday why the federal government chose to redirect Abuja-bound flights to Kaduna International Airport while the capital city’s Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport undergoes runway renovations.
The Abuja airport was closed down on March 8, 2017 for the renovation project, which is slated to last six weeks. Mr. Sirika vowed that he would resign from his post as aviation minister if the airport is not reopened by April 19, at which point the renovations should be completed.
Speaking with members of the Aviation Round Table (ART) in Lagos, Mr. Sirika said several factors were considered before Kaduna was chosen as the alternate airport while the Abuja airport undergoes renovations.
While acknowledging that airports in Minna, Kano, Jos, and Makurdi are closer to Abuja, Mr. Sirika explained that Kaduna International Airport’s facilities, runways, and Instrument Landing Systems (ILSs) are superior to those in other airports. He said that the government also favored Kaduna due to its operation capacity, efficiency, accessibility, and security.
“People are looking at Minna Airport and others, but they are not looking at the facilities at these airports. We chose Kaduna because of its dual carriageway, its ILSs, and others. Minna, for instance has no ILS facilities,” Mr. Sirika said.
He also emphasized that the government’s decision to redirect flights to Kaduna was not a political one, but was instead done for practical purposes.
The minister similarly dismissed a rumor that the presidency had pushed back the estimated completion date by an additional 18 weeks. He clarified that work would continue beyond April 19 for 18 weeks, but that this work would not disrupt flight operations.
“We took the right decision with the closure of Abuja Airport. I’m very comfortable that we will be able to finish the airport as promised earlier,” he said.
Mr. Sirika also disclosed that the government paid the contractor tasked with the renovation project, Julius Berger Nigeria, an additional N150m to transport more equipment to the airport, adding to the N5.8b already awarded to the contractor.
Accompanying Mr. Sirika was Minister of Information Lai Mohammed, who told ART members that the government was interacting with major stakeholders in the country’s aviation industry to ensure that the temporary closure of the Abuja airport goes smoothly.