Goodbye ABV (Abuja International Airport)

See You 6 Weeks or 6 Months, Subject to….
By Adewunmi Emoruwa

Travel in time to the 20th of April 2017, a day after the expected completion and commissioning of the newly refurbished Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja (ABV).

I am guessing you just heaved a sigh of relief; you no longer have to embark on the stressful routine of traveling first to Kaduna only to begin the journey to your primary destination. You may now return to having privileges once again as your favorite airlines —  Lufthansa, British Airways and others that have refused to take the risk of operating from the Kaduna Airport are back again. It is easier to picture this beautiful sunny Thursday with vanilla clear skies than to figure how.

The Federal Government initially announced plans to close the ABV in January with immediate resistance from the Nigerian Senate. News headlines read “Senate Kicks Against Planned Abuja Airport Closure” but what is not new to us is that this organ of government generally speaks quicker than it considers; the relevant stakeholders were formally invited after the faux outrage.

Abracadabra, the senate acquiesced to the insistence of the executive branch that the ABV must be shut down or nothing. This decision was against the recommendations by the Nigerian Society of Engineers — the apex body of professionals in the country. They held the following opinion:

“The runway could be reconstructed without closing the airport using segmented approach and known safety risk management procedures in line with International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) guidelines. Aircraft of B737 and below can therefore use part of the runway while work is going on at the other part.

“The taxi way should be upgraded to serve as a runway for aircraft of B737 and below. The appropriate study to confirm this can be carried out for visibility to be assured. This has been tried elsewhere in the world. For example, Gatwick Airport in the United Kingdom. Bigger international flights can be connected to Lagos, Kaduna and Kano and other international airport and then an air shuttle can be connected to Abuja. In the long term, the NSE is recommending that action be immediately commenced on the construction of a second runway at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport.”

To some, this should make sense and to me it makes even more sense — there is an amount of 1.5bn to be spent (shared) on the logistics of closing the Airport.

Operations at the ABV will resume after 6 weeks, at least that is what we have been told but if only I could swear, I would, that I read “6 months” on the Associated Press website though it might have be a typo. If you are in doubt, read it here.

Julius Berger Plc, the German construction company contracted to carry out the repair work has promised through the firm’s chief executive, Mr. Goetsch, that the project will be concluded within 6 weeks, and of note is that he also offered a caveat: “This is subject to the fulfillment of the obligation of all stakeholders.” The question remains what the probability is for these stakeholders to act differently (fulfilling their obligations) this time.

When my plane touches down at the ABV 20th of April 2017, I might agree that Change was my co-passenger and it has finally arrived!

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