Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport was Shut down just in a bid to fix its runway. Today, the case is different, as the federal government not only closed down the airport but is also poised to complete the work ahead of the stipulated time-frame.
So far, it has been four weeks since work on the 35-year-old runway began, but the nagging worry is if it would be ready by the said date, April 19.
Recall that the chairperson of the House Committee on Aviation, Nkerika Onyejiocha, had raised concerns about the readiness of the runway for operations by April 19.
“I have my concerns from what I have seen because the work is divided into three phases and they are in the first phase which is 1.2kilometres. From a layman’s angle, I have concerns that this work might not be completed, even though they keep assuring us that it will be done because what we have seen is the civil work plan.
“We are concerned about the mechanical aspect and the lighting and are taking it up from there. When we come to the board, they will have to explain to us the level of implementation to what they signed, because we have the papers to what agreement they signed to do.
“I said we have concerns because we don’t know if it is a total reconstruction or resurfacing but those things will be explained through the books and, of course, this is our first visit and we will come again.”
However, the federal government team, led by the Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed, on March 29, rated the pace of work on the runway to be 57.5 percent, noting that the work was going way ahead of schedule.
“Without going deep into the reasons why the airport had to be closed and [I must say that one of them was] basically safety. The runway completely failed at several sections, making it impossible to take the option of fixing these sections at night and operating by the day.
“We choose the decision in the interest of safety and we commenced. Work is going on smoothly and everything is in order. From the program of work, all necessary materials needed to be imported were listed and so were those which would be needed locally and at the work site.
“The contractor mobilized fully and we have now gone about 57.5 percent of the total work which is good and which shows that we are on time and are doing what we are supposed to do, so as to ensure that the runway is opened come April 19.
“As to what is imported for this purpose, there is a new technology where a glass grid is included in the process of constructing the runway, so as to give it extra strength and prevent cracks. This is the first time any Nigerian runway will be treated with such material which is a 50-tonner. We had to fly it into Nigeria in time.
“The runway work is going according to plan and you can also see that we are working simultaneously. Whilst the surface work is being finished, the installation of lighting is going on at the same time, channels are being cut for the laying of wires and, also, installation of lights [are going at the same time]. So, we are on course and this runway will be opened on April 19,” the minister said.