President Muhammadu Buhari has approved that airport security operatives bear arms, the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika has said.
Sirika, while addressing State House correspondents yesterday after the first meeting of the Federal Executive Council in the New Year, said the government was very serious about aviation security.
He said: “Just last week, the president approved that aviation security should bear arms. So, we’re trying to make them take the form and shape of TSA of the US with K-9 dogs, handcuffs, the guards, the batons, light weapons, etc.
“The minister of interior is helping us in that regard with the directive of Mr. President. They are partnering with us and other stakeholders to keep our airports secure. All these will be unveiled at the next stakeholders’ meeting.”
National Airline To Begin Operation This Year
Sirikia also stated that before the end of this year, there would be a national air carrier that would be private-sector driven.
He said: “When we came, in we were very clear on our targets and goals as well as what we set out to achieve. The national airline will be one that the government will have no hand in; normally it can have three percent. It’ll be private sector-led, private sector-driven. Except with the Ethiopian Airline, it has been proven that government doesn’t do well with this kind of venture.
“We’re going to have a national carrier. It’s on course and because it’s a PPP thing, it has to follow all the due process. So, it’s time consuming, but I hope very soon before the end of the year we will have a very strong viable national airline.
“For me, if any airline will have the capacity to deploy several aircraft with seamless operation, non-disruptive, provide the service, go the long haul, take advantage and give other international airlines a run for their money, we don’t need to get involved; it’s because there is none. The Nigerian airways used to do all of this, but in the wisdom of the then government, they liberalised the sector. Because of the absence of Nigeria’s capacity, most of these airlines will come and leave as fast as they came in.
“But we’re addressing all of these. We’re going to establish this national carrier and it’ll give good service. This is the solution because Nigeria has the market. We’re 180m, we’re sitting in West Africa and in the West African market, we’re 450 million and Nigeria is the major player. If you add the Central Africa which is the central belt, we’re 600 million people; which is equivalent to the US market and also equal to the European market.”
N1.1Billion For Kaduna Airport Terminal Repairs
The minister disclosed that FEC approved N1.1 billion for the completion of Kaduna airport terminal rehabilitation ahead of the planned closure of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja.
Sirika, who said the terminal building would be completed within six months, noted that the contract was awarded in 2011 and commenced in 2012.
“During the rehabilitation of the terminal building, a contractor noticed some structural damages to the building itself and then increased the scope of what to be done to put it to use and that necessitated the variation of contract sum. The cost of variation is in excess of 15%, it had to go to the then President Goodluck Jonathan for approval. That was approved and they went to BPP.
“So, we brought it to council to ratify and of course, taking into cognisance the exchange rate and inflation that has increased the cost of completion of the terminal building. The cost is up from N500m plus to N1.1bn plus. This is just for the terminal building and not the runway.
“This is another elaborate terminal robust enough to take the passengers for the operation of six weeks. It’ll not hinder it; it’ll not stop them also from working. It may be also a bonus likely, if the contractor is able to run through and finish before March, but whether it finishes or not, it’ll not affect the operations because there are enough buildings to carry out the operations of the airport.”
The minister said the planned closure of the Abuja airport for its runway rehabilitation would affect all passengers including very important persons (VIPs) as it would be totally closed for six weeks.
Second Abuja Airport Runway Through Concession
Sirika also stated that the Abuja airport would have the second runway through concessionaires.
He added: “It’s important we inform you that whether we shut down now or not, the runway is on its way to shutting down itself. We’re all witnesses to how Port Harcourt shut itself. The Port Harcourt runway was folding like mat, it was caving like deep gully erosion and FAAN was busy patching until one night it caved in and Air France landed. It destroyed their landing gear and burst their tyres and after the repairs, the airport was closed for two-and-a-half years until recently. If at the time people were taking appropriate action, probably they would’ve closed the airport for six weeks rather than two years.
“So, it’s extremely important when things are bordering on safety, we don’t joke about human lives. It’s with great pains that we’ll have to resort to diverting traffic. If it’s a case of where a section of the runway is bad, we wouldn’t have to close the airport, we’d be working at night, close at 10pm and reopen at 6am. But the entire structure of the runway has failed.
“The runway was designed for 20 years to cater for not more than 100,000 people per annum. Today, it’s doing over five million persons per annum and has been there for 34 years. So, it’s going for 14 years in excess of design. It’s not a joke; we’re a government and a very sensitive one for that matter. We’d not just cause hardship or distortions to the economy for the sake of it. It’s a very serious matter and for a very good reason,” Sirika said.
Source : Daily Trust