It is a very good decision to repair the runway to forestall certain and impending disasters which not even the combined cost of repair and temporary relocation to Kaduna airport will suffice to assuage the damage that would be incurred not to mention the possible loss of lives. The importance of Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja cannot be overemphasized. It is the gateway to the capital city. A smooth landing and welcoming ambience from the airport is very important especially for international visitors. If any disaster happens as a result of the bad runway, what will the international community think of us? A nation that kills foreigners in collapsed church buildings and at the airport? We certainly do not want this tag.

However good the intention, the approach lacks common sense in all ramifications. Not that I am surprised, after all this is Nigeria and common sense is not common simply because we don’t like common things. The giant of Africa can’t be known to associate with what is common. The cost of repair is put at 5.8 billion naira while the cost of temporary relocating to Kaduna for the six weeks of repair is put at 1.1 billion naira. I have not read that there was a bidding process that eventually led to the choice of Julius Berger to handle this project. Perhaps there was. This is not the focal point of this piece it is just a thought worth mentioning in view of this government’s anti-corruption stance. My concern is about the diversion of flights to Kaduna airport and the associated costs. At a time when the government has almost deafened our ears with ‘no money’ complaints and excuses, it is astonishing that the same government is willing to fritter away 1.1 billion naira in just six weeks. It is even more surprising that other alternatives proffered by the Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE) have been dismissed. This is typical of us. An ‘oyinbo’ (white) man from Julius Berger, an ‘oyinbo’ company has spoken, we do not need these noise makers from NSE to distract us.

Can we trust Julius Berger that the best option is to totally shut the runway? According to the Managing Director of the construction firm, Mr. Wolfgang Goetsch, “there is absolutely no option than to close the runway for these six weeks because it is not a repair work. It is a new construction of the whole surface of the building.” No right thinking CEO will turn down the opportunity to execute a 5.8 billion naira contract in just six weeks so I don’t expect him to support any other alternative. His loyalty is first to his company and shareholders. I blame him not. I remember when MTN came from South Africa and milked Nigerians of their hard earned (well, mostly hard earned) money giving us the excuse that ‘per second billing’ was not possible. In fact, they made it look like it was easier for a carmel to pass through the eye of a needle than for them to implement that. Globacom, an indigenous company came and implemented the ‘per second billing’. The same MTN who made it look like we were asking for too much quickly followed suit in order not to lose their market share to competition. I don’t think that as a nation, we have learnt from this experience at all. We must learn to value our indigenous expertise and this is without prejudice to any foreign expertise in view of the benefits of globalization. The NSE have proposed a phased approach and also offered practical steps to do this yet this seems not to be an attractive option to the government.

Were Nigeria a place where common sense is not constantly in a flight, this phased approach should be the subject of discussion at the senate hearing rather than the Minister of state for Aviation trying hard to convince us that by any means we must expend extra 1.1 billion naira in six weeks.

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