..Passengers, envoy hail airport’s reopening six weeks after
President Muhammadu Buhari has hailed the ministries and others behind the successful repair of Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja runway, 24 hours ahead of schedule.
He lauded the ministries of Transport, Power, Works and Housing, security agencies, Kaduna State Government, the contractor, Julius Berger and others.
The President said he looked forward to such display of inter-agency cooperation and efficiency in the operation of the entire Federal Government machinery.
Buhari, in a statement by the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, also thanked Ethiopian Airlines for cooperating with the Nigerian government during the period of the closure of airport.
He described it as a good example of intra-African cooperation.
Ethiopian Airline flight A350-XWB yesterday landed about 12:07pm at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, a few hours to the official opening of its runway.
The runway, which was closed for six weeks, will be officially opened for traffic today.
Speaking to reporters before the aircraft landed, the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said the runway’s rehabilitation was completed on schedule.
He added that though the reopening date was meant to be today, it was not bad to reopen a day earlier.
Said the minister: “April 19 was the due date for opening the airport, but due to earlier delivery than anticipated, there is nothing wrong with opening it a day earlier as we have achieved the target.
“Other works like the taxi way markings are still going on. It is non-critical routine that will continue, but the safety critical matters have been dealt with. The runway has been completed totally and it’s in perfect shape
“I just landed now on the same runway. The final exercise was this morning and the friction test was carried out and they found out that it meets international standard and the ICAO standard and recommended practices.
“So, the runway is safe, it’s good, it’s perfect and we thank all of you for bearing with us.
“We are celebrating because we set out to achieve a target and we have achieved it.
“We thank Allah for his guidance; we thank His Excellency for his support. I also wish to thank all my colleagues, who did it all, and the media and the Nigerian people for standing by us,” he said.
Sirika lauded Nigerians and air travellers for their resilience during the closure of the airport.
But some passengers aboard Ethiopian airline hailed the Federal Government for delivering as promised.
Most of the passengers, who The Nation spoke with at the arrival lounge, said they thought the runway won’t be re-opened as promised.
Hungarian Ambassador to Nigeria Prof Gabor Ternak, who was at the airport, said the example set by the Nigerian government was record breaking to other countries.
“It was a surprise that the Abuja airport would be re-opened on the schedule much less, a day earlier. I was really surprised.”
“I did not anticipate that the airport would be ready tomorrow, how much more a day earlier. This is really a change government and it speaks volume of the country to other countries of the world.”
Another passenger, Ibrahim Dikko, said: “It is something that all Nigerians should be proud of and it’s an indication that if we put our mind to something, it can be achieved.
A Hungarian passenger, who was aboard the Ethiopian aircraft, Dr. Gabor Baranyi, said passengers were told they would land in Kaduna, but at the last minute, it was announced that the aircraft would land in Abuja.
Baranyi said: “It was a smooth journey and landing in Abuja. I must say l didn’t expect to land in Abuja but it was really good to land in Abuja again after six weeks.”
A United States citizen, Mrs. Adrienne Cox, who was elated to land in Abuja, said she could not hide her joy of landing straight in Abuja without the hassle of landing in Kaduna before coming to Abuja by rail or road.
“I am so happy that the aircraft landed in Abuja. It was like a dream because we were told that it would land in Kaduna,” she said.
An 18-year-old passenger, Abdullahi Aliyu, said it was a surprise to land in Abuja.