Despite the N21. 5 billion budgeted for the construction of the second runway at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, industry experts have argued that it will still take a long time before the project is completed.
The experts said the urgency of the need for the second runway may not be matched by funding, even as they insisted that the amount earmarked this year for the project was less than 50 per cent of the total contract sum of N67 billion.
Industry observers also decried the cancelation of the project in 2009, due to its rejection by the National Assembly then, saying that the legislators then lacked foresight. In addition, they noted that in 2009 when the project was cancelled due to alleged inflated cost of N63.5 billion, government would now undertake same project at N67 billion.
“This is after all the inconveniences, the destruction of aircraft landing gear at huge cost to the airlines and the safety threat caused by the undulating surface of the existing runway which expired about 10 years ago,” the source said.
After several months the dilapidated Abuja airport runway exposed airlines to danger and damaged some aircraft like South Africa Airways flight and that of Emirates, which forced the airlines to withdraw service to Abuja. The airport was closed for six weeks and resurfaced at huge cost to businesses and services at the federal capital city.
In this year’s budget, the federal government said it would spend N21.5 billion on the construction of second runway at the airport, N1 billion for the completion of the international terminal at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport and N8 billion for working capital for the suspended national carrier, which government intends to revive and N500 million for transaction advisers.
The runway construction and the national carrier projects are just two out of over 100 projects of the Federal Ministry of Transportation (Aviation) contained in the 2019 Appropriation Bill.
Most of the projects bother on upgrade of facilities at Nigeria’s airports.
Following the closure of Abuja airport in 2017 to repair the dilapidated runway of the airport and diversion of flights to Kaduna, the federal government began move to construct a second runway.
It had initially earmarked N10 billion for the project in the 2017 Appropriation Bill and started initial move towards the construction of the project.
Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika noted the importance of a second runway, saying, “I saw the need and called for it but it fell on deaf ears. At the time of Yar’Adua, government saw the need but the project was condemned on the excuse that the money was too much.
“There is second runway in Kano, Lagos and Port Harcourt. I think the focus of the government within the limited resources is to do a second runway in Abuja and if we need additional runway, during the concessioning, the man, who would win it will do it.”
Industry observers still doubt, despite the seeming commitment of government to the project that it would not be completed in due time.
From 2017 till date, the government has only made provision of N31 billion for the project, which is less than half of the total project cost of N67 billion.
The N1 billion budgeted for the Enugu International terminal is hoped would complete the project and the facility would be put on stream.
Currently both international and local passengers are processed from the same airport terminal; although some gaps are created between them, but the new terminal would be a relief due to the cumbersome check in system prevailing at the Enugu airport.
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) said for the airport to really serve more international airlines, critical facilities must be installed or upgraded at the airport. The agency said it would install two approach lights, effective airfield lighting and improve water cover to the airport before more international airlines are designated to the airport.