The minister of power, works and housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola is currently answering questions as regards the proposed closure of the Abuja airport.
Fashola is being grilled alongside the minister for state (Aviation), Senator Hadi Sirika and representatives of the Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE).
A report by the News Agency of Nigeria indicated that the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja will now be closed on March 8.
The airport was earlier scheduled to be closed for six weeks between February and March. No reason was given for the change of date.
A statement by the aviation ministry stated that the “proposed closure” was set to start on March 8.
At the session on Tuesday, January 17, which was presided over by Senator Ike Ekweremadu, the runway at the Nnamdi Azikiwe airport was supposed to last for 20-year before a major maintenance becomes necessary, however, as of 2017, the airport has lasted about 35-years without the necessary maintenance.
The lawmakers raised very critical questions regarding the closure of the runway, very prominent amongst those who contributed were Senators: Mao Ohuabunwa, Kabiru Gaya and a host of others.
The biggest concern of the lawmakers was the many things that could go wrong within the duration when the runway would be closed and flights can operate no more within the Abuja airport.
Most of the Senators were of the opinion that the airport be closed for only a few days of the week, mostly weekends, so that flight operations can still be going on.
Senator Hadi Sirika told the Senate that the aviation stakeholders, and all concerned with the maintenance project were open to suggestions.
The aviation minister however noted that only the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has the right to determine which airport operates, and which should be shut down, hence; it was the NCAA's decision to call for a maintenance of the Abuja airport.
Hadi further noted that the 2017 budget only aids in complementing the proposed N1.2billion which was budgeted for the maintenance of the Abuja airport by the Jonathan led-administration.
While briefing the lawmakers, Sirika said that the proposed relocation exercise will gulp N1.134 billion.
Of the amount, the Nigerian Railway Corporation is to gulp N100,326,400, Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) will take N237,247,216.21 while the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) will take up N325,000,000.
A total of N358,517,700 billion was allocated to the Nigerian Police Force and the Nigeria Immigration Service is to take N29 million Naira.
The ministry is also going to hire the buses of the Federal Ministry of Transportation for N84 million naira, which brings the total figure to N1.134 billion.
According to the proposition put forth by Julius Berger, the maintenance project would see the runway being operated smoothly for about 10-years, with constant touches from time to time.
It was clearly stated by Julius Berger that N5.8 billion was awarded for the renovation project, and though the contract letter had been given, still, the contract remained yet to be signed.
A new technology is to be used in the maintenance of the runway at the Abuja airport. According to Julius Berger, about 81000 metres of asphalt would be required for the reinforcement of the runway.