Helicopters can now fly into Abuja from Kaduna airport, landing at designated spots, Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika said on Wednesday. The minister also said the government is still negotiating with foreign airlines who are refusing to land in Kaduna.
The National Security Adviser Babagana Mongonu had on Monday issued a memo reminding aviation authorities of the restriction of helicopter ferry flights over Abuja metropolis for security reasons.
The directive which came on the heels of the closure of Abuja Airport requires that all passengers coming from Kaduna do so by road, for security reasons. Only helicopters with the right security clearance from the presidency will be allowed to fly within Abuja airspace.
However, emerging from the Federal Executive Council meeting, Sirika told journalists that the matter had been resolved and procedures for the landing spots will be made public soon.
“On the helicopter issue the National Security Adviser has the constitutional responsibility vested on him by his excellence Mr President to advise the President on National security matters, within his wisdom he had earlier on sent out letters banning the helicopters operation into the airport but the National Security Adviser has earlier this morning said that helicopters will of course continue to fly to Abuja airport from wherever, then the procedure that they will use to approach the airport under landing spot will be advised accordingly before the end of today, which means that helicopters can come into Abuja and out bearing in mind that within the metropolitan city of Abuja there are no fly zones and this is very normal in every country.
“They have areas where there are no fly zones but the National Security Adviser this morning approved that helicopters should enter Abuja airport and out but the procedures in which helicopters should enter into Abuja and the spot which the helicopters will land will be advised in due course and it shall be before the end of today” the minister said.
The minister also said the government has been discussing with other international airlines that are yet to start using the Kaduna landing facilities especially flights to London. Ethiopian airline landed in Kaduna last week, making it the first international airline to use the route. “I think within the next couple of days we shall conclude and if it is possible we shall announce to Nigerians that there will be flight from Kaduna to London and back. We will be using the advantage of the gap created by British airways out of Abuja.
“Yesterday afternoon I was at the British high commission. I discussed with them for onward delivery to their own country. We are ready here and we have aircrafts that we can deploy the airlines that we can use to go into London and back on daily basis. We shall keep you posted within the next couple of days” the minister said.
Recall that Abuja’s airport will be shut for six weeks, beginning from last week Wednesday, the 8th of March. This is to allow for the construction of a new runway given the obsolete state of the existing one. Following the closure, all flights are now to land at the Kaduna airport, while arrangements are in place to convey passengers by road.