By; Bala b. Bitrus, Minna
Despite the federal government’s insistence on using the Kaduna Airport as alternate airport while repair work on the Nmamdi Azikiwe International Airport lasts as against pleas by proponents for the closest Minna Airport, Governor Abubakar Sani Bello of Niger State has made a last minute attempt to plead for a rethink and change of mind by the federal government.
Governor Bello advised that the federal government should put in place a ‘plan B’ for another alternate airport to avert a catastrophic shame, embarasment and colossal loss of revenue should the major global airline operators reject the use of the Kaduna Airport.
The Governor took his plea on Friday to the leadership of the Nigerian Senate where he along with some key political actors in Niger state stormed the office of the Senate President to plead for the prompt fixing of the Minna Airport to safe the country from impending national embarrassment.
Governor Bello told the Senate President that he was at the National Assembly to plead with the leadership of the Senate to press it on the federal government to expedite action on the completion of Minna-Suleja road as well as to resume work on the abandoned terminal wing of the Minna Airport and the construction of the road network to Baro Inland Port whose works were abandoned by the federal government.
He argued that fixing of the Minna Airport would require about N300 million as against the billions of naira that is to be expended on the preferred Kaduna airport.
He advised that the Minna airport should be repaired to provide airline operators opportunity to choose between the two while the rehabilitation works on Abuja airport lasts.
The Governor explained that he was not opposed to the selection of Kaduna airport but noted that the Minna airport has more comparative advantages over the preferred airport.
“Minna is a natural alternative to the Nmandi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja. It is nearer to Abuja and has a better runway than the Kaduna Airport”.
He said “with the controversies and descending opinions and objections that are trailing the selection of the Kaduna airport especially by some major international airline operators, there was the urgent need to also fix the Minna airport being the closest to the Abuja International airport so as to give airline operators alternatives to chose from and conversely safe the country from any embarrassment that may arise”.
“From what I am seeing in the way we are handling the rehabilitation of the Nmamdi Azikiwe International Airport, if it is not well, carefully planned, we are heading for some national embarrassment,” he cautioned.
He argued that since what is required to complete work on the Minna airport is just about N300 million and the contractor handling the project is available and his equipment still on ground, it would be unwise for the federal government to allow the opportunity slip off. The Minna Airport has one of the best and longest runways amongst national airports in the country. It is also the closest to Abuja.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki expressed support for the fears and concerns raised by Governor Bello. He agreed that there should be options of alternate airports for airline operators to choose from rather than restrict them to just one.
The Senate President criticised the haphazard and fire brigade approach being put by the federal government in handling the repairs of the Abuja International Airport.
Saraki conceded that the Minna airport is the closest to Abuja and its runway is in good condition. He advised that it would not be proper if the country limits itself to the use of one airport as it’s major gateway.
He assured the Governor and his entourage that the Senate was passionate about all the issues raised.
“Mr. Governor the issues of Minna-Suleja road, the Minna airport and the roads to Baro Port are very crucial. They are not only of interest to Niger state but to the nation at large.They require our support” he noted.