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Just before we close Abuja Airport

Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi

The news of the impending six-week closure of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport starting March 8 is to say the least disconcerting. What started out as a rumor became a reality following the formal publication of notices in Thisday Newspaper on January 2. Trying to figure out the implications of this development got me sweating. I imagined the human and aircraft traffic at the Abuja airport being transferred to Kaduna, as the plan stated. I imagined the movement from Kaduna to Abuja. I imagined the risks especially security and logistics. So, I want to make some assumptions.
Firstly, I want to assume that the Ministry of Transport has beefed up the facilities and human resources at the much smaller Kaduna Airport in view of the outbreak of traffic. Being an international airport, Abuja will purge all its local and international flights into Kaduna, and the pressure will be massive. Right from Air Traffic Control personnel to facilities like bathrooms, scanners, conveyor belts, trolleys, etc, must be scaled up.
Secondly, I want to assume that security within and around the airport and indeed around Kaduna will be beefed up as well. Considering the volume of VIPs that will be passing through the city into Abuja, it goes without saying that the security risk level will go considerably higher. As a matter of fact, the situation could be fertile ground for the now degraded terrorist group, Boko Haram, which might be actively seeking soft targets.
Thirdly, last time I checked (that is last November) the Kaduna-Abuja road was in bad shape. Three months is adequate time to patch up the road and make it safer for the duration of the closure. Then, again, the same heightened sense of security expected in and around the Kaduna airport must be provided on the Kaduna-Abuja road complemented by men of the Federal Road Safety Corps. Knowing Mr. Babatunde Fashola, he must be working on a plan on how to deal with this, but this is a timely reminder if this skipped him.
Fourthly and related to the above point is the provision of mobile clinics and ambulances on the road, in case of any emergencies. The stretch of road between Kaduna and Abuja does not have the complement of good hospitals where accident victims can be rushed to, God forbid. So, the Ministry of Health must do the needful.
Finally, there’s the little matter of the duration of the closure, which is six weeks. I wager to say it will last much longer than six weeks, given the amount of work to be done at the Abuja Airport. So, Nigerians must brace up for additional 4-6 weeks.
In all, this is for the good of the country. The Abuja Airport needs to be taken to the next level. The good intentions are there for all to see, but it’s about time it all comes together. Thanks to the Goodluck Jonathan government, which started the project, like it did the Kaduna-Lagos Rail project. By the way, this could be a good time to put that rail system to test in terms of speed, efficiency and comfort. I also believe the economy of the people living along that route will experience an upswing with improved commercial activities. Hotels in Kaduna and along the expressway had better brace up. The transport companies are about to witness a boom on that side. The telecommunications companies are also going to see a boom. With VIPs trooping in greater numbers into Kaduna, data consumption will experience a spike. So, it’s time to spend a bit more on network infrastructure to make more money.
I believe all the stakeholders, not just the Ministry of Transport, are singing from the same page and getting ready for the necessary but difficult closure of Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport. Hopefully, they are. Hopefully too, the outcome, post the challenges, will be worth the trouble at the end of the day. May be we will also use this to test how much we have changed as a people.
Just before we close Abuja Airport Just before we close Abuja Airport Reviewed by Emeka Oparah on Thursday, January 05, 2017 Rating: 5

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