by on January 12, 2017

Welcome to a new Legislative day in the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Senate President Bukola Saraki takes the official prayers and leads the Senate into today’s proceedings. Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi moves for the approval of the votes and proceedings of Wednesday, 11th January 2017 and Senator Osinachukwu Ideozu seconds.

Senate President Bukola Saraki reads a letter from President Muhammadu Buhari Re-Submission of Nomination of Non-Career Ambassadorial nominees. (46 Nominees).
Senator Phillip Aduda thanks President Buhari for granting FCT a Non-career Ambassadorial Nominee.

Senator Sam Anyanwu as well points out that up till now there are no representatives for Commissioners representing Abia and Imo state in the Niger Delta Development Commission.
Senator Ahmed Lawan rise to thank the APC Caucus for having the confidence in him to serve as Leader of the Senate He adds that “Nigeria is our Country, Nigeria does not belong to APC. I want us to deliver on our promises. The “8th Senate started on a shaky note, but it will end on a solid note”.

Senate President Bukola Saraki assures the new Senate Leader that he will get all the support required. Dr. Saraki adds that” I want to use this opportunity to thank the former Senate Leader Ali Ndume for his service and commitment to the chamber”. Senator Akpabio says that all the rumblings in the Senate has now come to an end with Ahmed Lawan as Senate Leader.

Senate President Bukola Saraki introduces the Minister for Transport and tasks him to explain to Nigerians the rational behind the #ABVClosure. Rotimi Ameachi says he will rather allow Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika to address the Senate on #ABVclosure.
Minister Hadi Sirika explains that the Abuja runway was constructed in 1982 and has only a lifespan of 14 years meaning that it has exceeded its usage and to continue to operate the Airport will be unsafe and unreasonable as there is a daily occurrence of incidents. He says the purpose of this address is to explain the position of the Ministry of Aviation. The work on runway is for 6 months and not 6 weeks but that the Abuja Airport will only be closedfor 6Weeks. He further states that the Port Harcourt Airport was shutdown for 2 1/2 years because the maintenance was not done in time.

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Minister Hadi Sirika explains that every flight plan has an alternate landing route and it has always been Kaduna as alternative for Abuja. He gave an instance when a plane landed and thr tyre of the aircraft busted and Julius Berger had to be called to tow it. “On the 8th of January this year, a plane landed in Abuja which ruined the tyre and now the plane can no longer fly”.

On Safety, Hadi Sirika said the Senators representing Kaduna that hosts the alternate Airport will agree that the Airport is safe and that he has read on Twitter, Facebook & other platforms that Nigerians are complaining about #ABVclosure ands wants to answer to their concerns. Hadi Sirika reads the different options Nigerians have given and said the option to use portion of the airport will not work as most planes are too big. Hadi Sirika said this administration has focused on safety and will not be able to defend it if they have to cut runway by half.

Senate President Bukola Saraki puts the question to know the status of preparation of the Kaduna Airport to serve as alternative for #ABVClosure and Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika says Government will provide Military, Police and helicopter patrols and upgrade clinics along the Abuja/Kaduna airport route. Minister Sirika adds that Train Services and Executive Bus services will be provided. Governor Elrufai has been conducting sensitisation to educate the people of Kaduna on the #ABVClosure. Minister Hadi Sirika said few years ago, as a member of the National Assembly himself, he wrote a letter to all 469 members on the need for a 2nd runway.

Senator Hope Uzodimma informed the Minister that the Nigerian Society of Engineers condemed #ABVClosure and asked why they weren’t consulted. Senator Uzodimma also asked about the length of the Port Harcourt Airport runway compared to Abuja to make sure we wont have to wait another 2 1/2 years. “If multiple portions of the runway is bad, it is safe to say the entire portion has collapsed. We will ensure contractors are diligent; we are adding additional150Million to cover the rollers, cable, the light & others. This is to ensure we don’t exceed the six weeks period by a day” – Hadi Sirika on #ABVclosure

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DSP Ike Ekweremadu asked if it is possible to extend the runway in Abuja to allow planes to continue to land and take off and asks what is the plan for getting a 2nd runway in Abuja. “Julius Berger is not helping the nation at all, this has become a reoccurring problem in major areas they handle” says Senator Barnabas Gemade. Senator Gemade submitted that if #ABVclosure must happen, it should not exceed 2 Weeks as Kaduna Airport does not do international flight; the implication is that flight tickets become more expensive. The foundation of the problem is from the pervasive corruption that exists” – Senator Gemade

Hadi Sirika assures that local engineers and indigenous companies will be engaged so as to put the money back into our economy just as Senate President Bukola Saraki asks if the minister thinks the cost of relocating Airport for 6 weeks is worth it and for further clarification on the cause of relocation to kaduna and the exact cost this will amount to. Senator Bukola Saraki also ask the Minister of Aviation if its prudent to spend close to N5.5b in six weeks as the cost might double.

Senator Dino Dino Melaye in his owm contribution says the negligence of not involving the Senate and the Senate Committee on Aviation is not acceptable. Senator Melaye reminded the minister that though he speaks as if the #ABVClosure is not reversible, the Senate & Nigerians have the final say. Senator Melaye further states that he raised a motion in 2008 to remove the 2nd runway from the budget while he was in the House of Representatives because it went from 8bn to 64bn in 1Year. Senator Melaye said he expected the minister to have contacted Nigerian Society of Engineers directly and not expect them to read it in the newspapers and that the construction of the runway was N8Million in 2007 and N45Million in 2009 and the contract was eventually cancelled. In conclusion, Senator Dino Melaye called on the Minister of Aviation to save Nigerian lives, to save the country money and to look for other alternatives to #ABVClosure as “Kidnappers are already celebrating on the road of Kaduna”.

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Senator Biodun Olujimi asks the minister if they have spoken to airlines to get their buy in for the #ABVClosure. The Minister of Aviation responds to Senator Melaye’s question that the life span of the runway after construction is 10years. The Minister also responds that “Already about 500,000 people are travelling on the Kaduna road daily” and again states that an Air Frqnce Plane broke its landing gear when the plane landed in Abuja Airport. “Mr. President is also concerned about the safety and functionality of the Aviation system” – Hadi Sirika

Senator George Akume asked why can’t the minister increase number of contractors to 5 to make the job faster and Senator Godswill Akpabio says that we must look beyond the short term and plan for the future. Senator Akpabio says its better to build a second runaway rather than spend Millions to renovate old ones that were recently repaired.

Hadi Sirika said it is cumbersome and impossible to have multiple contractors work on the runway and that more attention needs to be given to Aviation construction to avoid these reoccurrences. Senator Hunkuyi Suleiman says the position of the Minister must be looked at critically in line with the safety and security of the people.

Senate President Bukola Saraki however says the Minister will come back next Tuesday to allow him provide more accurate figures and to allow other Senators contribute. Dr. Bukola Saraki speaks on some of the issues raised which include the need to have inputs from the Nigerian Society of Engineers as well as the Minister of Transport’s plan on roadwork, invitation of the construction companies and briefing from security experts.

Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan now moves that other items on the Order paper be stepped down to another Legislative day. Minority Leader seconds.

Senate President Bukola Saraki announces the Committee to probe the #SouthernKaduna Crisis to be chaired by Senator Kabiru Gaya with members including Senators Kabir Marafa, Nelson Effiong, Dino Melaye, Mao Ohuabunwa, Isa Misau and Solomon Adeola.
Senate President Bukola Saraki puts the question and plenary is adjourned to Tuesday 17th January, 2017.

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