A source from the presidency has disclosed that the initial six weeks designated for the upgrade of the Abuja Airport Runway will be extended by another 18 weeks.
According to a statement circulated to select journalists by the presidency, the 18 weeks’ upgrade would however, be carried out at night, meaning normal flight operations will continue during the day.
The source also said the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, has been working diligently to minimise the inconvenience caused by the closure.
“After the Abuja airport reopens for operations on April 19, upgrade works on the runway would continue for another 18 weeks,” he said.
“This second phase of upgrade works on the runway will be carried out at night, with no disruption to flight schedules, the Presidency official further disclosed.”
The source added that a media tour to allow reporters observe and assess the progress of work on the Abuja airport runway repairs would hold this week.
He added that “the repair is about its mid-point on Wednesday’’.
The committee had launched series of customer engagement initiatives to enable passengers and travellers affected by the closure of the Abuja airport get up-to-date information and updates.
The closure of the Abuja airport and subsequent use of the Kaduna airport has faced heavy criticism even as most foreign airlines stayed away rather than use the Kaduna airport.
On Sunday, the presidency source also said the Federal Government Coordinating Committee overseeing the repairs of Abuja airport said over 43,000 passengers have passed through the Kaduna airport.
The committee which also oversees the closure and relocation of passengers to Kaduna airport, the alternative to the Abuja airport, said that the figure was in respect of the first 11 days of operations in the exercise.
The committee disclosed this in its latest data submitted to the presidency on the Abuja airport’s repair, closure and relocation.
The presidential aide, who preferred not to be named, said the figure was more than the 41,000 passengers the Kaduna airport recorded in the entire first quarter of 2015, and the 21,000 in the first quarter of 2016.
The source also disclosed that, during this period, about 10,000 passengers took advantage of the free bus shuttle, organised by the federal government to transport passengers between the Abuja and Kaduna airports.
“The free bus shuttle conveyed passengers between Abuja and Kaduna airports, starting at the Abuja airport at 6 o’clock in the morning, and at the Kaduna Airport from 8 a.m.
“The shuttle takes 3 hours from the Kaduna airport to Abuja airport, and runs every 30 minutes, until the arrival of the last daily flight in Kaduna.
“The Shuttle is in addition to the federal government’s free train service between Abuja and Kaduna.
“The two-and-half-hour Train Service departs Abuja’s Idu Station for Kaduna at 6 a.m., 11.55 a.m. and 5.45 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays; and departs Kaduna’s Rigasa Station for Abuja at 9 a.m., 2.50 p.m. and 8.40 p.m.,’’ the source said.
According to the source, the reconstruction at the Abuja airport is going according to schedule. He expressed optimism that the airport will reopen after six weeks as planned.
The official is also involved in the presidential supervision of the airport closure and oversight.