Why I reopened Abuja airport earlier than scheduled – Minister

Apr 18 2017 - 5:02pm

Sirika (second left) speaking to journalists before the reopening of the Airport on Tuesday

Normal aviation services, including flights, resumed at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, on Tuesday as the Minister of State for Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, reopened the facilities a day earlier than schedule.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the airport was reopened after successful completion of its runway rehabilitation.

Sirika, while addressing newsmen in Abuja, said he decided to reopen the airport since the runway rehabilitation had been completed on schedule.

He added that even though the reopening date was supposed to be Wednesday, it was not bad to reopen a day earlier.

The minister commended Nigerians and air travelers for their resilience during the six weeks closure of the airport.

According to him, April 19 is the due date “for us to conclude and open the airport based on our programme of work; we are able to deliver the project earlier than anticipated, so we can open it”.

“Here we are today; we set out to achieve that target and we achieved it.

“We thank Allah for His guidance and we are happy and thank his Excellency for his support.

“I also wish to thank all my colleagues who did it all and the media and the Nigerian people for standing by us,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Ethiopian Airlines’ flight is the first to land at the airport on Tuesday with its Airbus A350-900 aircraft at 12:10pm.

The 313-capacity aircraft is one of the last aircraft manufactured by Airbus and also one of the latest acquisitions of the airline, according to Mrs Firiehiwot Mekonnen, Traffic and Sales Manager.

A passenger,  Mr Amlan Talukdar, who flew in from New Delhi, told newsmen that he was happy that he did not have to travel by road from Kaduna to Abuja.

Talukdar added that when he was taking off from New Delhi, India, what was on his mind was how to travel on road from Kaduna.

He commended the Federal Government for its commitment towards transforming aviation sector.

“When I was about to travel to Nigeria from India, I was confused as to my destination but I am happy that my final destination is Abuja and not Kaduna,” he said.

Another passenger, Mrs Henan Abdou said she flew with Ethiopian airlines from Addis Ababa, adding that it was a pleasant experience to have traveled on the aircraft.

“I am happy with the flight, it was smooth and convenient,” she said.

By the successful landing of the Ethiopian aircraft on Tuesday, the airport has officially been opened for flight operations. (NAN)

The Ethiopian airline airbus when it landed in Abuja on Tuesday

The National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) has lauded the Federal Government for the prompt rehabilitation and reopening of the runway of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja.

Mr Olayinka Abioye, the General Secretary of the union, gave the commendation in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos on Tuesday.

“Let me commend the Federal Government, particularly President Muhammed Buhari, for approving funds for the complete rehabilitation of the Abuja Airport’s runway.

“We must also commend the Minister of State, Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, for spearheading the project.

“Initially, there were criticisms but in spite of it, the minister still went ahead because he believed in what he wanted to do,’’ he said.

According to him, as a union, our criticism is not against his person. We criticised him because we needed to get the best out of him as the minister.

“Today, as the airport is being declared open which is a day ahead of the promised date of April 19, we will be seen as partners in progress toward achieving the rehabilitation of Abuja  Airport’s  runway,’’ he said.

Abioye expressed optimism that the runway would last the next 10 years before any major rehabilitation would be carried out on it as projected by the contractor that handled the project.

The labour leader also urged government to start the construction of a second runway for the Abuja Airport.

“We are hoping that between now and in the next two to three years, we should have a second runway in Abuja Airport.

“Further to that, the airport should have its own domestic wing.’’ He said.

Abioye said that Nigerians were demanding for a holistic approach where the country would have a full-fledged and functional domestic terminal rather than directing local aircraft to the international terminal of the airport to land and take-off.

“Domestic or local aircraft should land and take-off at the domestic terminal while international flights should operate from the international wing of the airport.

“This will give the operators room to bring in more local and international aircraft to the Abuja Airport,’’ he said.

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