Unlike in most other countries of the world, many crucial policy decisions of the Nigerian government are not preceded by deep thinking which would have ensured that those decisions are made in conformity with the interests of the larger sections of the society. Many informed Nigerians are of the opinion that many crucial national decisions are made to pander to the very narrow and sectional interests to the detriment of the country and its people.
The recent decision by the Federal government of Nigeria to shut down the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport for six weeks to enable some rehabilitative repairs to be carried out on sections of its runway, is being seen by many observers and stakeholders as one of such policy decisions which did not benefit from deep thinking.
Citing what it said was the deplorable condition of the runway of the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport at the federal capital, the condition which has brought about considerable unease and complaints from domestic and international operators, the Ministry of Aviation had decided to repair the runway and to, in that process, shut down operations at the airport for six weeks. The Federal Government, in its very questionable wisdom has also decided that during those six weeks, aircraft operation to and fro Abuja would be diverted to Kaduna Airport. Kaduna, the capital of the Kaduna State lies about two and half hours drive north of Abuja and is linked to the federal capital by a highway whose condition is often in more dilapidated condition than that of the Abuja airport whose condition worries the federal government.
Most thinking Nigerians and other observers and stakeholders have been greatly alarmed by the decision to divert air traffic from Abuja to Kaduna, on the view that it does not make much sense.
And as most important decisions are informed more by emotions than by rationality, some interests have also started to joust for the diversion of the air traffic to Minna Airport at the capital of the neighbouring Niger State, further proof that any diversion at all was informed more by politics than by reason.
The Senate, on its resumption on Tuesday, has wisely rejected both the closure of the airport as well as the diversion of the operations to Kaduna. In addition, the Senate has given the supervising ministers 48 hours to report and explain the reasons behind such decision which stakeholders in Nigeria and abroad are seeing as both ill-conceived and rather senseless. We applaud both decisions of the lawmakers.
It is clear that no Nigerian or stakeholders in the aviation industry would be against the need to rehabilitate the airport when the need arises. What is, however, clear that is those that took the decision to cut the face of the nation’s socio economic interests through the closure, to spite Nigeria’s face never considered the weightier interests of the nation nor of those of the important stakeholders of such a delicate industry as aviation. If deep thoughts had gone into the decision, it would have become obvious that shutting an international airport is far weightier than shutting a motor park and diverting the users of say, Utako Motor Park to Karu in Nasarawa State. It is such reckless decision making that must have informed the alleged reasoning of the Kaduna state administration of Malam Nasir el-Rufai to suggest that Abuja passengers tipped at Kaduna could be conveyed by buses to Abuja, without any thought of it workability.
The AUTHORITY aligns both with the decisions of the Senate which has rejected the six week closure of the Abuja International Airport as well as with the views of the knowledgeable stakeholders that the repairs at the airport can go on effectively with shutting the airport, as is the case in saner climes, and in fact as has been the case in the past in Nigeria when rehabilitation work had taken place at airports.
It does not require the skill or knowledge of a rocket scientist to appreciate, as the chairman of Airline Operators of Nigeria, Noggie Meggison, whose members do not support the proposed closure said though his members would to the effect that such closure is unnecessary.
Meggison, like other stakeholders , said the repairs could be carried out at night while flights are allowed to operate during the day. Accordingly too, the operators were of the opinion that repairs of the runway could be carried out between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. while flight operations could take place during the day.
According to the airline chief, Gatwick airport in the UK, which like Abuja airport has only one runway, did not shut down when repairs were carried out on its runway. This is despite that Gatwick has more than 10 times the volume of air traffic that the Abuja airport has, he said.
While The AUTHORITY urges the government to expedite action on the repair of the damaged airport at Abuja, we urge the Senate and other stakeholders to stick to its guns and reject the closure proposal of the airport and to, instead, work with experts and stakeholder to devise the best and workable way of handling the rehabilitation of the airport like is done in the other places without closing down operations at Abuja.