By VICTOR NZE
Acting President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo has appealed to foreign airlines yet to divert operations to the Kaduna airport to see the arrangement as a temporary one put in place to allow for repair work on the dilapidated runway of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja (NAIA).
This is also the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) have assured the readiness of the Kaduna Airport for international operations from March 8.
Osinbajo made the appeal after inspecting facilities at the Kaduna airport.
Till date, British Airways, South African Airways, Lufthansa, KLM-Air France have so far shunned the Kaduna airport and have moved operations to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Ikeja, Lagos cancelling the Abuja route completely rather than divert to Kaduna.
“One thing that is very clear is that it is not all foreign airlines that are declining to come, I have met some here today who are willing to come, I have just spoken to Ethiopian airlines, they are willing to come. I think what we need to tell foreign airlines is that obviously, this is an emergency, and a temporary arrangement, and they should really work with us with that temporary arrangement and we are concerned about safety and comfort. They are here also to see for themselves, we will be happy if they work with us, we will be happy if they see it as temporary and cope with some of the flight inconveniences here and there”.
Also speaking, Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, Engr. Saleh Dunoma said all things the foreign airlines need for international operations are on ground.
“What is important actually is the safety equipment they need, the ILS has been installed, the runway is good, the terminal building will be ready in the next five days, the acting president has directed the contractors to complete some items before the commencement of international flights. The foreign airlines have agreed, that is why they are here, they will be conducted round the facility”.
Continuing, at a separate forum in Abuja, Dunoma, said the organization has now installed all safety equipment needed for the operation.
“All the things we need for international operations are on ground. What is important actually is the safety equipment for the landing of the aircraft.
“We have seen the runway is good, the Instrument Landing System (ILS) has been installed and the terminal building is ready.
“The contractor has been directed by the Acting President to redouble his effort so that the remaining items of work that are remaining should be completed before the commencement of the international operations in Kaduna.
“I think this is one of the luckiest airports; they have five generators as standby power supply. So we have more than enough,’’ he said.
Similarly, Mr Fola Akinkuotu, Managing Director of NAMA, assured that once the Abuja Airport was closed, NAMA would deploy the mobile tower from the airport to Kaduna to complement what is already on ground.
He said that NAMA management had certified the capability of Kaduna Airport, adding that its engineers have done a good job on it.
“As far as this (Kaduna) airport is concerned, NAMA management, we are very satisfied that we have done a good job.
“At the inception of the project, the ILS (Instrument Landing System) was not accessible but as of today, I can tell you that not only have we installed a brand new ILS, we have also calibrated it. We have a calibration certificate from a UK concern.
“On the facilities for landing, like I said, the ILS which comprises the glide scope and localizer have been calibrated and they have been found satisfactory like 10 on 10.
“Apart from that, we also have the approach light that actually complement and make sure that they have the ILS.’’
Minister of State, Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, announced the use of the Kaduna airport as alternative for the Abuja airport that would be closed for six weeks for repairs of its runway.