The Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika Tuesday said the single runway at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, was a disaster waiting to happen if a new runway is not built as soon as possible.
Sirika during the formal handing over to him by the out gone Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Aviation, Hajiya Binta Bello said government could not afford to delay over the construction of a second runway for the airport because of the enormous danger involved in a single runway, which is old.
The Abuja airport is the second busiest airport in the country after the MMIA, Lagos.
“I am very young in the industry but where l trained, we have 8 runways and a single runway is just an invitation for disaster and that is why we have to do it, it is a must, it must be done”, the minister said.
Sirika also said that the re-modeling of airports across the country, the introduction of development fund for the aviation and the maintaining and sustaining existing structures in the sector were paramount to the current administration.
The Minister further assured Nigerians that every fund meant for projects in the aviation sector would be judiciously and appropriately used to bring the desired change to the sector.
He, however, warned that he would not tolerate laxity from agencies and members of staff of the sector, most of whom he noted, he are his friends and colleagues.
“I know 95 percent of you here; some are my colleagues, friends and even my senior in the sector. Please do not leverage on the relationship, do your work, and be the boss, take your work for granted and I be the boss”, he warned.
Sirika also stressed the importance of training and re-training of staff of the sector to enhance their proficiency and cover for possible errors
Speaking on her six months tenure in the aviation ministry, the outgone permanent secretary said the sector during her brief tenure, delivered effectively on the core mandate of ensuring safety, security and comfort of air travelers.
“On the 7th of May, I resumed the sector and within the six months that l stayed, l ensured that we continue to deliver effectively, efficiently the mandate of the aviation sector in terms of security, safety and comfort of passengers.
“There is no ministry, former or new that has no challenges and the challenges of the aviation sector are as usual as you know, funding remains the main issue of the sector. I know when I took over, l met a debt of over N100billion and l have not been able to pay back even N1 billion, so it’s a huge challenge”, she said.
On the proposed Abuja second runway, which contract sum the Senate said should be reviewed downwards, Hajiya Bello said: “We have at the moment an issue which has turned to be a national issue and everybody is looking forward to it. I’m sure you are aware that I constituted a committee to look into the best model government could adopt and recommendation have since been submitted to the office of the President.
“There is also the need for construction of the second runway in Abuja. You are also aware that the existing runway at Abuja is over 30 years old, it has given way and there is need to construct a new one and l would want to mention here that no contract on the second runway has been awarded”.
While welcoming the Minister of State for Aviation, the new Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Transportation, Mr Sabiu Zakari pledged the support and loyalty of the staff to the minister while he admonished the staff to support Mr. Sirika, a retired pilot, in his duty to achieve the Buhari administration’s focus of change.