Counting cost of Abuja Airport shutdown

The temporary shutdown of the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja for the repairs of its runway has led to huge business losses on the part of those whose livelihoods depend on what goes on in and around the airport. ABDULWAHA B ISA and RUTH MONDAY, who were at the airport, report



The temporary shutdown of the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja for the repairs of its runway has led to huge business losses on the side of members of Car Hire Association of Nigeria and other business owners operating within and around vicinity of the airport.

Other business stakeholders such as fast food eateries, restaurants and Bureau de Changes (BDCs) have also tasted the bitter pill arising from government’s decision to temporarily, re-direct Abuja bound flights to the Kaduna International Airport for a period of six weeks.

Some business operators, who spoke to Inside Abuja described the closure of the airport as an action which has dealt a major blow on their means of livelihood. Chairman, Airport Car Hire Association of Nigeria( ACHAN), Abuja, Aliu Abdulazeez Aliu, who spoke with our crew at the international wing of the Nnamdi Azikwe airport, noted that, though the closure was necessary to allow for repairs of the airport runway, it has reduced drastically the rate of their turn over by about 70 per cent.

“Before the closure, the business of car hire was a booming one. No dull moment with passengers .As soon as passengers hit the ground, they find their ways to the car hire stand. To the best of my knowledge as an insider, our patronage has reduced between 60 to 70 per cent,” he said. Nevertheless, Aliu said the runway repairs was long overdue. “No matter what happens, people will always have cause to react to government’s action.

The closure is to allow runway repairs. The runway is bad and there is need to rebuild it. If government chooses to close it for that purpose, it’s good. I have strong belief that the company will deliver before the lapse of six weeks period.”

Aliu commended the Federal Government’s decision that buses should convey passengers from Kaduna to Abuja , a decision that has keep his members in business “We thought government was going to completely close the airport, that would have been a bad development but with a decision to provide buses to convey passengers from Kaduna airport to Abuja , it’s a relief.

That is why we are still having something to feed our children with and we appreciate airport management for that singular decision which now compels people to patronise us,” he said.

A restaurant attendant , Miss Faith, who sells food at Mbaklink Restaurant located at the local wing of Nnamdi Azikwe airport, disclosed that, business has completely nosedived in her restaurant.

“Since morning, we are only able sell four mudu of rice unlike before airport closure, we could cooked half bag of rice and sold all. You can see the restaurant is empty, no customer,” she said .

Mallam Abdullahi Umaru, a bureau de change operator said he and his members have also been affected by the closure of the airport. However, he said,they were in full support of the Federal Government’s decision to shut down the airport for the rehabilitation of its runway. “For me and my members, we endorse the repair. It will save the lives of passengers and other airport users.

We are dependent on God for survival but what is paramount to us is that, the repairs they are doing is a welcome development for us so that people’s łives would not be endangered,” he said.

However, a taxi cab operator, Azubuike Nwafor, from Abia State, described the experience of airport closure as horrible given the downturn in business activities.

“The stress is too much. If you look inside, you will see that everywhere is scanty because of airport closure. Before, when passengers come, we carry them to town but now if you look at the hotels you will see that rooms are vacant, you can’t see people moving around. Coming to our own business, we have absolutely nothing doing here rather than sit and watch cars pass.

“Federal Government has made provision in the Kaduna airport that once the flight lands, the passengers are conveyed to Abuja in a big bus. We pray the repairs are done within stipulated period so that our business can resume”, he said.

Some airline passengers from Kaduna airport conveyed to Abuja by government approved buses however lauded the tight security arrangement put in place by the government. Hassan Shaib, an agricultural economist, who flew aboard Dana airline to Kaduna but was conveyed to Abuja by bus, described the security arrangement as perfect.

“The Kaduna airport is not a big one but the most important thing to me is security arrangement from Kaduna to Abuja by road which is perfect and good.” Sharing his road experience ( Kaduna to Abuja), Biodun Anofin, a civil servant with an agency of the Federal Government commended the government for providing tight security surveillance along the highway.

“We observed lots of security and police men gave us back up as we were coming. Everything went on fine. There is no problem, I came with Dana Airlines and I am a public servant,” he said.

In line with its plans to close down the Nnamdi Azikwe International airport, Abuja to enable the reconstruction of the airport runway whose life span expired 14 years ago, the Federal Government last week re-directed flights coming into Abuja to Kaduna.

Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, reaffirmed that the reconstruction of the airport runway being handled by Julius Berger will be completed in exactly six weeks. According to him: “Everything is set to commence the reconstruction of Abuja runway. The airport will be closed for six weeks and not a day longer. I assure you that the runway will be delivered exactly after six weeks,” he said.

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