Dele Ogbodo in Abuja
The Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, tuesday said government would ensure that the total rehabilitation of the Abuja Airport runway will not take more than the stipulated six weeks.
A statement signed by Mr. David Iyofor, the minister’s Media Aide, said Amaechi acknowledged the pains the closure of the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport Abuja would cost Nigerians, foreigners and the economy.
The minister maintained that all arrangements had been well firmed up to ensure the reopening after due rehabilitation is concluded in six weeks.
The statement said the minister gave the assurance when he appeared alongside his colleagues at a town hall meeting organised by the Ministry of Information in Ilorin, Kwara State on Monday.
According to him: “We are saying that the Abuja airport runway was built to last for 20 years but we have been using it for 34 years.
“It has become extremely dangerous to continue using it, the way it is right now. We need to close it to rebuild it and reconstruct it.
“The foundation is almost gone and what we are asking for is patience. If we don’t close it, we will be exposing lives. One of the constitutional responsibilities of the president is to protect lives and property.
“So you can’t deny us that responsibility. We believe that if we close it by March, in six weeks time we shall be able to reopen it. We know it is challenging for our economy. We think that we will keep to that six weeks.”
On the ministry’s activities in the maritime sector, regarding the North-central region, Amaechi, said his ministry was determined to commission the Baro River Port by the first quarter of 2018.
He said: “We met an abandoned maritime sector. Our target this year is that by first quarter of next year, we shall be inaugurating Baro River Port.
“We are in the process of awarding the contract for the last equipment that they will use at the River Port. NIWA is there working hard. I understand the sentiments of Baro.
The only reason why we have not gotten the contractor at Lokoja part is that we don’t trust the contractor and I have directed NIWA to go and look for the process of terminating that contract and get a new contractor to complete the project and that mandate, we have from Mr. President.”
According to him, the mandate that would interest Nigerians is the Central Railway Line, the Itakpe/Ajaokuta railway line, stressing: “If you go back there now the contractors are back to site. We have sent them back to site.”
He stressed further: “Under this government, we have agreed with contractors that we will complete it first quarter of 2018.”
He promised that the Baro port would be completed first quarter of next year, adding that the other thing that would interest Nigerians is the Narrow Gauge Railway Line that transverses Kwara State to Minna. We are about to start negotiations with General Electric (GE).
“The Narrow Gauge will start if we successfully conclude our conversation. Before the end of this year, from Lagos to Ajaokuta to Ibadan to Ilorin to Minna and onward to Kano we will revive that railway line.” the minister said.
According to the minister, the first and second quarters will be used to complete the negotiations for the expected work and activities to commence on the train.
“Once we conclude it, it will create employment. The other one that will also interest you is the Standard Gauge, which everybody is glamouring for.
“We have awarded the contract for the Lagos to Ibadan Standard Gauge Line. By the time they complete that we will be awarding Ibadan to Ilorin and the prayer you should make is to ask the National Assembly to kindly approve for us the borrowing plan that was sent to them.
“Out of that borrowing plan, $6.1billion is meant for railway. For the Lagos to Ibadan, you have $1.5billion. The loan has been approved by the China Exim Bank, the only thing holding us today is that the National Assembly is yet to approve the borrowing plan. As citizens from the North-central, please kindly appeal to the National Assembly to approve the borrowing plan,” he said.
“When that is completed the next phase of the railway will be from Ibadan to Minna or Ilorin. Currently, we are also looking for loan to do Kano to Kaduna for that standard railway gauge,” he said.