There is uncertainty and confusion over the second runway of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, following a fresh N92bn approval for the project, Daily Trust reports.
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) had on last Wednesday approved N92.12bn for the construction of the second runway of the airport, according to the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, who briefed newsmen at the end of the meeting.
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Sirika had said the contract was divided into five lots and would be completed in 12 months by the China Civil Engineering and Construction Corporation (CCECC).
He said, “For Lot A, we have the construction of the runway, taxiways, links, fencing of the operation area of that particular runway, not the entire port, internal perimeter, crash roads, service roads, services and drainage.
“This is awarded to Messrs Civil Engineering Construction Company Limited, CECC, at the sum of N72, 341, 479, 217. 22k.”
Our correspondent reports that the second way was necessitated by the increasing flights to the airport as well as frequent disruption to flight operations by VIP movement in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Apart from that, other unforeseen circumstances had in the past led to the shutdown of the only functional runway resulting in flight disruption.
The federal government had in 2016 shut down the airport for the repair of the runway for six weeks while Abuja-bound flights were diverted to Kaduna International Airport.
This is why stakeholders have called for urgent need to have a new runway in Abuja as obtainable in Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos.
However, the fresh award of the contract is generating disquiet in the aviation sector following the sudden jump in the project cost from N67bn to N92.2bn.
It would be recalled that Sirika had in 2018 as the then Minister of State for Transportation in charge of Aviation, told the Joint House of Representatives Committees on Land Transport, Maritime Safety and Administration, Ports Harbour and Water-Ways and Aviation, that the second runway would cost N67bn.
In addition, provision for the second runway was made in the budget from 2017 till date, according to the budget documents.
Daily Trust reports that in the 2017 budget, N10bn was voted for the project and in 2018, N8bn was proposed while N13bn was voted for the project in 2019; and N14bn in 2021.
And in the 2022 budget, N20bn was voted for the project and listed under ongoing projects of the ministry.
It was not clear at the time of filing this report how much was released for the project so far in line with the annual budget approval.
Daily Trust’s enquiry from the ministry was yet to be responded to as of press time as the spokesperson in the ministry, Mrs Eunice Akro, promised to get back to our correspondent.
Sirika had hinted that the government would explore a special funding window as done in the previous project.
However, aviation analyst, Group Capt. John Ojikutu, rtd, challenged the National Assembly committees to find out what had happened to the previous provisions for the project.
“It is not too late or out of place to ask if none of the various budget provisions had not been released and if released, what have they been used for; these are questions that the NASS Committees on Aviation must also account for,” he said.
He recalled that, “We were told in 2010 when N64bn at #16bn/km was approved for the same runway of 4km a year to the 2011 election. We are being told now that N92bn is approved for the same 4km runway at N23bn/km or N23m per meter. Do we really need two runways in any of our airports?”