Ahead of the planned six weeks closure of Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, for maintenance, the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) has kicked against such plan saying it was not an option as there are engineering acceptable ways of carrying out such maintenance while operations continue.
One of the options advanced by the engineers is that the federal government immediately commence work on the second runway of the airport.
Besides, NSE argue that closing down the airport would be tantamount to shutting down the nation’s economy which is already going through turbulence.
“The aviation sector is a part of Nigeria’s transportation network and contributes significantly to the socioeconomic growth of Nigeria. Any disruption in the operations of this sector, particularly at an international airport that connects Nigeria to the rest of the world, has huge impact”, Otis Anyaeji, President of NSE stated in Abuja on Wednesday while addressing a press conference.
It would be recalled that Hadi Sirika, minister of state for aviation had on January 5th during a stakeholders forum disclosed plans for the proposed six weeks closure of Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja commencing from March 8 to carryout comprehensive renovation works on the airport runway in order to meet International Civil Aviation Standards.
However, Anyaeji explained that shutting down the only runway will create enormous ripple effects for all the passengers and cargo traffic flowing in and out of the airport which is an airport hub adding that in far worse scenarios, committed efforts have kept airports operational while maintenance/repairs are on going.
” A good example is the Uli airport runway which was kept open during the civil war through quick fixes to crater caused by exploding bombs. Another example is the replacement of the aging Frankfurt Airport runway in 2005, closure of runway was.not an option. All work was schedule in a sevrn-and-a-half hour night time window over 300 nights in 15m section of the main runway. The replacement material by dawn was hard enough to hold a Boeing 747 and cool enough not to explode its tyres. This and other similar projects are seen as likely template for other airport renovations.
Responding to questions on the preference of conveying passengers via road and rail to Kaduna Airport, the NSE President said both road and rail were not options.
“When you have train identified as conveying Ambassadors, high profile members of the society, then you are exposing them. Don’t even go to such venture”, he maintained.
Stressing that the non-integrated management of transport sectors has not, the NSE called for a holistic and intermodal approach and emphasised the need to collapse all transport modes into federal ministry of transport for greater efficiency and improved management.
The NSE further called on President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint competent and professionally exposed Nigerian engineers to head engineering/infrastructure ministries as a way of strengthening the change agenda.