It is pleasing to note that the Federal Government went on to fulfill its assurances of repairing Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja twenty-four hours ahead of schedule. The runway of the International airport was closed for six weeks on the ninth of March for a six-week intensive repair and renovation works, and was officially opened for both local and international traffic on Wednesday nineteenth April. Although other works like the taxi way markings which were non-critical routine issues were still going on, safety critical issues have already been dealt with. Safe landing equipment was in place while friction tests have been carried out and the results have been found to meet international standards and recommended practices. The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika was on board the police jet which made the historic landing on the Abuja runway after it was restored to good condition.
While the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport remained shut for the urgent repair works, necessitated by the failed and dilapidated tarmac, all flights to and from there have been diverted to nearby Kaduna International Airport which had earlier been upgraded and conditioned to handle large volume of air traffic from all parts of the globe. The reopening of the Abuja International Airport was welcomed by incoming passengers who were gladdened by the prospects of flying directly into Abuja without the hassle of landing in Kaduna before proceeding to Abuja, either by rail or by road. With that development domestic airline operators have now fully resumed operations at the Abuja airport.
They were full of praises for the Federal Government and the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Sirika for his untiring efforts toward ensuring speedy completion of the runway. This accomplishment had really given joy to President Muhammadu Buhari who was obviously delighted with the remarkable achievements of all those that had helped in completing the airport project on schedule. He attributed the timely and successful completion of the airport project to an inter-agency cooperation and efficiency. He, therefore, lauded the ministries of Transport, Power, Works and Housing, Kaduna State Government, the Contractor, Julius Berger and others, expressing hope that such spirit would continue to be demonstrated in the entire Federal Government machinery. He was also full of praises for the Ethiopian Airlines for cooperating with the government during the period of closure of Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja. It was on record the airliner was the first to commence operations at the Kaduna Airport after the closure of Abuja, and was also the first to land on the rehabilitated tarmac of Abuja Airport.
That, however, was not surprising in view of the long-standing relationship in aviation circles between Ethiopia and Nigeria which preceded its independence. It has always given its best to this country, both at good and challenging periods, becoming a veritable partner in its historic growth. Other international airlines have refused to fly the Nigerian route as the Abuja International Airport was being closed for repairs, complaining that Kaduna Airport was not safe for landing. They had also advanced seeming insecurity challenges their passengers might face as they ply different roads to and from Kaduna. At the end of the day, these foreign airline operators regretted the consequent loss they suffered in millions of dollars for their tactless and unwise decisions in patronizing Kaduna Airport.
Now, with all said and done, the credit for the successful completion of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport project must go to the Minister of State Senator Hadi Sirika who had since the commencement of the project, and even when it was on the drawing board or in the pipeline, remained restless and was determined to succeed. He worked tirelessly and assiduously, running from pillar to post, to ensure its successful implementation according to the plan.
Viewed from whatever perspective, the temporary closure of Abuja International Airport has brought about so many good things, especially to Kaduna State and its citizens. First, it had created an opportunity for hawkers and other petty traders as well as taxi drivers to conduct brisk and profitable businesses at the airport premises. Besides, the airport building and the facilities therein were given facelift and reconditioned in accordance with what obtains at all standard international airports. Secondly, it had enabled the government undertake immediate fixing of the failed Abuja-Kaduna highway and provided adequate security to safeguard the movement of passengers to and from the Kaduna airport. That had greatly assisted in reducing the incidences of kidnaps and other heinous crimes on the ever busy highway. In the same vein, the operation of the fledgling Kaduna-Abuja train services was greatly enhanced and popularized by the passengers that patronized Kaduna Airport while that of Abuja was undergoing repairs.
What remains to be done now is to ensure that the gains brought by the temporary diversion of the activities of Abuja International airport to Kaduna will be consolidated and even be improved upon by both the Federal and state governments as well as the local populace so as to stimulate rapid economic growth and foster even development of Kaduna State.