By Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
The leadership of the National Assembly is considering the inclusion of a N15 billion budgetary allocation for the immediate commencement of the construction of a second runway at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport in Abuja, in the 2017 budget.
The 2017 N7.3 trillion budget is expected to be passed anytime from Tuesday, when the lawmakers resume from the Easter recess.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, are already in talks with the Chairmen of the Committees on Appropriation, Senator Danjuma Goje and Hon. Bala Dawaki, and the Chairmen of the committees overseeing the aviation sector.
The development, THISDAY gathered, is to prevent a reoccurrence of the recent complete shutdown of the airport, where airlines alone lost an estimated N10 billion in the first three weeks of the closure.
THISDAY gathered that the leaderships of the Senate and the House of Representatives are also concerned about the economic losses incurred by not just foreign and local airlines, but also businesses dependent on, or centered around, the airport, in this period of economic recession.
“While that issue (of the airport closure) has come and gone, we have to remember that nothing was done to mitigate the economic effect on those businesses at the airport; taxi drivers, restaurants and other vendors. The economic effect on Abuja itself cannot be quantified, just ask hotels about the losses they incurred,” a source said.
“There is also the image problem, yes, the airport reopened after six weeks as the Minister of Aviation (Senator Hadi Sirika) promised. We are also thankful that there were no major issues with conveying passengers to and from Kaduna airport, but Nigeria must have been a laughing stock globally when it announced that it was closing down the major access to its capital city,” the source added.
It is therefore imperative that the construction of the second runway must be embarked on, immediately, the source added.
The Abuja airport was shut down for complete rehabilitation of its runway on March 8, 2017, and was reopened on April 18, 2017, a day ahead of its scheduled reopening. The Aviation Minister, Mr. Hadi Sirika had promised to resign if the airport was not reopened on schedule.
The ministry had facilitated the movement of passengers to and from Kaduna airport, where the airlines were diverted to.