The Federal Government of Nigeria has Monday decried the high level of infrastructural rot at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, particularly its only runway, and declared that it might close the airport soon.
It also stated that it would trim down what it termed as the bloated workforce, particularly managers of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) .
The Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, disclosed these at an industrywide stakeholders’ forum organised by the Federal Ministry of Transportation in Abuja to unveil the plans of the current government for the aviation sector.
Sirika, who gave a detailed presentation at the event, regretted that the Abuja airport runway had been neglected over time by previous governments, and wondered how pilots were coping with the facility.
Buttressing his points, the minister showed his audience photographic clips of dangerous potholes on the runway and stated that the pictures were taken the previous day (Sunday).
He said he was tempted to shut the airport when he saw the level of dilapidation of the facility, adding that he would surely close the NAIA in the near future in order to ensure the safety of lives and property, especially as the raining season sets in.
Speaking on the level of dilapidation at Nigerian airports and citing the Abuja airport as an instance, Sirika said, “Ladies and gentlemen, if you see slides on how the Abuja runway is at the moment, you won’t fly it. I was tempted this morning to close the airport, and I probably will. I probably will, for sure!”
As the slides showing the potholes on the runway were being displayed, the minister said, “This is the Abuja runway. It is this bad and this was just yesterday (Sunday).”
Sirika explained that it was high time the nation’s capital got another runway, stressing that the sorry state of the present runway was impacting businesses negatively.
On the bloated workforce in some of the agencies under the ministry, the minister stated that there was no way he could work with the about 40 general managers in FAAN.
“Even if I want, I don’t think I should indulge 40 general managers in FAAN; in fact, level 17. It is not the way to go, no! The structure must be slim, focused, clever, result-oriented, patriotic and be able to deliver the required services,” the minister stated.
Prior to now, there had been claims that past ministers of Aviation used their office to recruit unqualified persons into FAAN, a development that a former Managing Director of the National Airspace Management Agency, Mr. Roland Iyayi, described as unfortunate.
The minister further stated that the government was working on plans to provide six cargo terminals for the transportation of perishable goods at affordable rates.
Sirika also noted that his team had informed President Muhammadu Buhari of the need to establish an aviation development bank in order to provide funding for genuine businesses in the sector.
He added that the government would stop funding the country’s aviation college in Zaria, Kaduna State, stressing that the institution must work out ways to generate revenue to ensure its continued survival.
On plans for a national carrier, he said the government would soon appoint a transaction adviser who would drive the emergence of the airline.