by Mark Amaza
When in January, the Federal Government announced plans to close down the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport in order to have its runway repaved, there was a lot of protests and complaints in response.
It was not that the runway project was ill-conceived – no, it was well overdue as it had exceeded the period of length an airport runway should go without repairs by 15 years. However, there were numerous concerns about how it will inconvenience travel into the capital and affect business as well. Most of all, there was a lot of skepticism on whether the 6-week period for the project could be kept to – not even the promise of the Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika to resign if the completion date is exceeded eased the skepticism of Nigerians.
Surprisingly, the 18th April deadline for reopening the airport was kept to, and Nigeria’s second busiest airport is back to life. By Nigerian standards, this is an amazing feat.
So how was this achieved?
First, the pressure of many international airlines refusing to fly into the Kaduna Airport which was made the alternative to Abuja during the repairs period was bound to make sure that the project was completed as at when promised. It is estimated that the Federal Government lost as much as N1billion in revenue as only Ethiopian Airlines flew from Kaduna, while the remaining airlines did not increase frequencies from the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos either.
Also, the close and personal supervision of the Aviation Minister made sure that the contractors kept to the project timeline. It will not be a reach to say this project was the only item on the Minister’s desk for all of two months and he kept it at the front and centre of all his activities.
Of course, another issue that often bedevils the timely execution of projects – release of funds – was not a problem. In all, about N9billion was spent on the project, with the bulk of N5.8 billion on the runway itself, N1.1billion on repairing the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway, another N1.1 billion on logistics and a further N1.1billion for renovating the terminal of the Kaduna Airport in order to prepare it for the swell in passenger traffic during the period.
This shows that it is possible for Nigeria to conceptualize, execute and deliver on projects on time with proper planning and commitment. Hopefully, this will extend to projects within the aviation sector, such as the remodeling of all federal airports that have been on hold since February 2014, and also to all other programs and projects.
There are key infrastructural projects that the deliveries of will greatly improve our business environment and make life a little less harder for Nigerians, such as the Second Niger Bridge, the Lagos-Ibadan Railway and the Lagos-Calabar Coastal Rail, just to mention a few.
We hope that the example set by the Abuja airport runway project does not end here.
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