Azikiwe International Airport to be Closed, Says Minister

  • Decries dilapidated infrastructure, says govt has no money to run airports

Dele Ogbodo in Abuja

The Minister of State, for Aviation, Mr. Hadi Sirika, on Monday threatened to shut down flight operations into and out of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja ,because of dilapidated infrastructure that could compromise safety.

He said the several pot holes on the runway almost made him to close the airport, urging that that the airport will be closed down until the necessary things are put in place. He did not however say when the closure will be carried out.

The minister, who made the disclosure at a meeting with stakeholders in the industry in Abuja, showed clips of the dilapidated infrastructure at the airport, and said the focus of his administration is to ensure total safety and security.

On the concessioning of the airports, he said arrangement had been concluded to concession the Lagos, Kano, Abuja and Port Harcourt in the first instance, adding that government does not have the wherewithdal to continue to run the airports.

He said: “I have had a tough time explaining and debating at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meetings and on the streets to make a case for aviation. I have discovered that we simply do not have the money.

He said government will bring to an attractive level that will be self-sustaining for the private investors that are buying into it, adding that it is a good market for investors and therefore government should concession them to make money out of them.

“We need to get those investors that know that Nigeria is about 170 million and that they can create a hub of the country and they can put their money in it.” he said.

Sirika said following government’s approval, transaction advisers will soon be set up for the establishment of a national carrier, adding that it will also be private sector-driven.

He said: “This will be private sector-driven and we shall establish this to take advantage of the Bilateral Air and Service Agreement that the country has.

“We have to engage the transaction adviser very soon and government will give us approval to appoint transaction advisers that will drive this because we have made attempt before and it failed about this time it will not fail as we need to get it right because the market and the political will is there.”

The minister admitted that local investors will now be encouraged to operate Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) so as to prevent capital flight when the national carrier commences operations.

According to him, there will a total overhaul of all the agencies in the ministry, adding that the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), for efficiency because of its over blown structure.

On Aviation Security AVESEC, he said: “We want to recreate and put that segment with Nigerian transportation security and administration and has to take a formal shape as done abroad, they will be made to carry armed with sniffer dogs and well trained.”