President Muhammadu Buhari has given an order for the immediate repair of the failed portions of the runway of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, has said.
This is coming as the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, declared that despite the scarcity of aviation fuel, known as Jet-A1, Nigerians should know that the commodity had been liberalised by the Federal Government.
Both ministers spoke at the VIP lounge of the NAIA on Wednesday before an inspection tour by Sirika.
The Aviation minister told journalists that the Abuja airport runway was actually due for reconstruction 14 years ago, but nothing tangible was done on the facility, which led to the breakdown of some portions.
He stated that he had to shut down the affected portions of the runway in order to avert disaster, a development that made it impossible for some aircraft to land at the airport during the period.
Sirika, however, stated that the portions that were shut had been reopened as maintenance and repairs had been effected, adding that the President had approved the interim repair of the runway as well a major reconstruction of it in the near future.
“Mr. President has directed that there should be an immediate repair on the runway in the short term,” he said.
Sirika said there had not been any major repair of the Abuja airport runway since it was constructed in 1982.
“Ordinarily, the runway is to last for only 20 years, but since the 20 years elapsed in 2002, no serious repairs had been carried out on it,” he said.
The minister further stated that the Federal Government could not continue to fund the nation’s airports, adding that it had resolved to adopt the Public-Private Partnership model for the development of the facilities.
He maintained that despite arguments against the government’s plans for the concession of the airports across the country, there was no going back on the idea.
On the scarcity of aviation fuel, Sirika described it as a challenge that needed the support of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to surmount.
The minister stated, “The aviation fuel issue is one of the recent challenges in the aviation sector and the Minister of Petroleum Resources is here with me and he is making every effort to ensure that the product is very much available for our country and for our use.
“However, another problem is the issue of foreign exchange, but I believe that the government is doing its best, and in due course, we will address you on this matter.”
Responding to the issue of Jet-A1 scarcity, Kachikwu noted that the commodity had been liberalised, but was quick to state that his ministry would assist the aviation sector in sourcing for the product, considering its essence at the moment.
He said, “We have essentially liberalised the sector and in fact, the importation of Jet-A1 is largely in the hands of the private sector. It is not really an NNPC drive item. But given the situation that we find ourselves, we are doing everything that we can; the NNPC new GMD is working round the clock and I’m doing everything that I can to look at countries where there is immediate availability of the product so as to solve the problem.
“In the long term, we are obviously looking at repairing some of our Jet-A1 producing facilities in the refineries, and I know that the Group Executive Director, Refining and the GMD of the NNPC are working hard on this as we are trying to put funds together to do this quickly.
“However, we should be able to get solution to this present problem quickly so that we can sort it out in the short-term period, while looking at the systemic issues of funding, logistics to see how they are all impacting the private sector’s ability to provide it.”