By Henry Umoru
ABUJA- THE National Assembly and the Appropriations Committees in the Senate and the House of Representatives have kick started the construction of second runway at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja by injecting N15 billion into the 2017 budget to kick start the construction process, while the Ministry of Transport would take over the procurement process thereafter.
The measure, according to sources close to the National Assembly was to forestall any future closure of the Airport as experienced from March 8 to April 19.
Sources in the National Assembly said that following discussions between the Appropriations Committees in the Senate and the House of Representatives, as well as follow up meetings between the leadership of the two chambers of the National Assembly, it has been agreed that the National Assembly should kick start the process of constructing the Second Runway at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport.
The source said,”To prevent the type of closure that happened to Abuja Airport recently, which led to loss of huge revenues by the government as well as airlines, the National Assembly has decided to end such haemorrhage and prepare ahead for the future. To start the process without any further delay, the National Assembly has projected the sum of N15 billion into the 2017 budget as take-off funds.”
Construction of the Second Runway at the Abuja Airport ran into bad weather during the administration of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua over the cost of the runway.
The N63 billion quoted as the amount for completion of the job was seen as outrageous and vehemently protested against by some members of the House of Representatives.
President Goodluck Jonathan, who inherited the argument in 2010, when he took over from the late Yar’Adua cancelled the runway project on the basis of the huge cost.
Though a new figure was yet to be arrived at by the incumbent government, it was learnt that the National Assembly has already taken the initiative to inject take off funds into the 2017 budget.
The Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika had also on March 22, during a tour of the Kaduna Airport told newsmen that the Federal Government was looking to the construction of the second runway within the next 24 hours.
His statement presupposes that the executive and the legislature have had exploratory discussions on the issue.
The Minister was quoted as telling newsmen on March 22: “There is a plan by government to squeeze in within the 2017 budget to have a second runway in Abuja. However, we need to learn from previous
mistakes. Since 1995, I, as a person, has been campaigning for a second runway in Abuja because of safety and to make the airport more efficient. But it fell on deaf ears.
“We were lucky during the time of (the late) President UmaruYar’Adua that the government saw reason as to why there should be a second runway. But this idea was condemned, with people saying that the money was too much. Alternatively, you would have campaigned against the cost, but support the project. So kill the cost, don’t kill the project.
“So, yes there will be a second runway in Abuja. Hopefully, within the next 24 months we will have a new runway. There is a second runway in Kano, a military runway; a second runway in Lagos and a second runway in Port Harcourt. So, they have second runways and I think the focus of government now within the limited resources is to do a second runway in Abuja.
“The remaining work, during the concession process, if we need additional runway, the man who wins the concession should be able to give us the additional runway.”
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