The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, says the federal government will ensure that the rehabilitation of the Abuja airport runway is completed in six weeks.
In a statement he issued by his media office on Tuesday, Amaechi, who acknowledged the pains the closure of the airport would cause travellers said his ministry would ensure its reopening after due rehabilitation.
Amaechi gave the assurance at a town hall meeting organised by the ministry of information in Ilorin, Kwara state on Monday.
“We are saying that the Abuja airport runway was built to last for 20 years but we have been using it for 34 years. It has become extremely dangerous to continue using it, the way it is right now,” he said.
“We need to close it to rebuild it and reconstruct it. The foundation is almost gone and what we are asking for is patience. If we don’t close it we will be exposing lives. One of the constitutional responsibilities of the president is to protect lives and property. So you can’t deny us that responsibility.
“We believe that if we close it by March, in six weeks time we shall be able to reopen it. We know it is challenging for our economy. We think that we will keep to that six weeks.”
While explaining issues concerning maritime in the north-central, Amaechi said his ministry was determined to launch the Baro River Port by the first quarter of next year.
“We met abandoned maritime. Our target this year is that by first quarter of next year we shall be commissioning Baro River Port. We are in the process of awarding the contract for the last equipment that they will use at the River Port.
“NIWA is there working hard. I understand the sentiments of Baro. The only reason why we have not gotten the contractor at Lokoja part is that we don’t trust the contractor and I have directed NIWA to go and look for the process of terminating that contract and get a new contractor to complete the project and that mandate, we have from Mr President.
“The other mandate that will interest you is the central railway line, the Itakpe/ Ajaokuta railway line. If you go back there now the contractors are back to site. We have sent them back to site. That is a 32 years project. Under this government we have decided and agreed with the contractors that we will complete it first quarter of next year.
“Even Baro will be completed first quarter of next year. The other thing that will interest you is the narrow gauge railway line that transverses your state (Kwara) to Minna. We are about to start negotiations with General Electric (GE). The narrow gauge will start if we successfully conclude our conversation. Before the end of this year, from Lagos to Ajaokuta to Ibadan to Ilorin to Minna and onward to Kano we will revive that railway line,” he said.
He said $6.1 billion from the loan expected from China had been set aside for railway, but lamented that the national assembly has not approved it.
“Out of that borrowing plan, 6.1billion dollars is meant for railway. For the Lagos to Ibadan, you have 1.5billion dollars. The loan has been approved by the China Exim Bank, the only thing holding us today is that the national assembly is yet to approve the borrowing plan. As citizens from the north-central, please kindly appeal to the national assembly to approve the borrowing plan,” he said.