Closure of Abuja Airport runway will be counter-productive, say aviation unions
Unions in the aviation sector yesterday kicked against the plan by the federal government to close the runway of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja for repairs.
The unions said the planned closure of the airport scheduled to begin from March 8 for a six-week period would be counter-productive for the country’s economy.
They made their position known in an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari and obtained by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.
The letter, jointly signed by Olayinka Abioye, General Secretary, National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Frances Akinjole, General Secretary, Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and General Secretary of the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), Aba Ocheme, read in part: “Your Excellency, we hasten to use this open medium to draw your attention to the proposed closure of the Abuja Airport for turnaround maintenance of the runway for six weeks out of the six months that work shall continue at the said airport.
“The necessity for the proposed exercise could not only be due to the audit findings against our country, but more importantly, as a long overdue safety measure, which we appreciate.
“While we accept that the Abuja runway has turned bad and requires a quick fix, our unions are of the opinion that total closure of the airport should be the last ineluctable option in repairing the international airport’s runway.”
The stakeholders said they were not carried along by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) before the decision to close the airport was taken and suggested that instead of a total closure, an additional runway should be effectively considered for construction as a long term measure, while the subsisting one continues to be put in use, under some phased reconstruction.
“Skeletal repairs of the runway could be adopted by allowing the airport for use, likely between 6a.m. and 6p.m., while fixing of the major damaged portions of the runway continues during the nights.
“This has been done in several parts of the world. Why should Nigeria’s case be different?
“Our opinion is premised on the fact that the proposed exercise, being a reactive formula, can be achieved without total shutdown of the international airport.
“The consequential effect of such total closure will impact so negatively on the already dire economic environment of Nigeria, given the dependence of several low and middle income earners on aviation business in and around Abuja airport,” they said.
The unionists said aviation agencies would also be deprived of their internally generated revenue during this period, while some low business operators would lose their businesses completely and forever.
“We do not wish to believe that your government will set out to jeopardise the livelihood of its citizens at such dire time as this.