Aviation Stakeholders on Thursday expressed divergent views on the proposed closure of Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, for six weeks and the use of Kaduna Airport as alternative.
Mr Noggie Meggison, Chairman, Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), during a Stakeholder’s Forum organised by the Minister of State, Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, in Abuja, said the operators would support the government.
Meggison said that AON was in total support of the rehabilitation of the Abuja airport runway which he described as long overdue and had become a safety concern.
He drew the attention of the government to possibility of carrying out the repairs on the runway at night while flights would be operating in the day time.
Meggison said the operators were of the opinion that repairs of the runway could be carried out between 6 p.m and 6 a.m, while flight operations could take place in the day time.
According to him, Gatwick airport has 400,000 passengers in a year and Abuja has only 14,000 passengers, and we have that kind of volume and Gatwick didn’t close for repair, we also can operate.
The chairman, who commended the minister for his forthrightness in piloting the affairs in the sector, said there had been a lot of actions by Sirika in the sector since he assumed office.
He, therefore, urged the government to explore possibility of carrying out the repairs on the runway at night while flights would be operating in the day time.
Similarly, Mr Osho Joseph, Representative of Foreign Airlines in Abuja, said that Kaduna might be an alternative for local airlines, but not for foreign airlines at the moment.
Joseph also suggested that February to March could have been the ideal time for the closure to beat onset of rainfall.
The Deputy British High Commissioner, Harriet Thompson, express readiness to support the government throughout the period of the closure.
She debunked the insinuations that the government of Britain might close down its embassy in Abuja, saying the country would stand by Nigeria at all times.
The Representative of Gov. Nasir El’rufai of Kaduna State, Mr Gambo Hamza, assured of the State Government’s readiness to ensure smooth operations during the period.
He said that the government had begun cleaning up of the airport, adding that adequate security arrangement had been put in place. (NAN)