Barely two days before the Federal Government shuts down the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja for repairs to its dilapidated runway, workers are still battling to mount electrical fittings, seats and toilets at the new terminal of Kaduna Airport, which will handle the FCT air traffic over the next six weeks.
This comes as leading International airlines that fly into Abuja have already opted out of Kaduna, because of security worries, while domestic passengers could face major delays if the new terminal is not ready in the next two days.
Latest indications show that most floor and ceiling tiles have been fitted and all air conditioning units have been installed, but electrical fittings are unfinished, while chairs for the arrival and departure areas lie strewn about with a car park expansion still incomplete.
“Contractors are working day and night,” said an official from the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) who is not authorised to talk publicly on the matter.
A contractor said staffing levels at the terminal building site had increased since mid-February. Reuters reports that between March 3 and 5 about 50 builders were on the site, compared with about 30 in January.
Kaduna Airport officials on their part, said the existing terminal will be used if the new site is not ready as it can handle up to 500 passengers at any one moment – equivalent to three or four short-haul jets, although some critics say that number is inflated.
Since the road network in Nigeria, is in poor condition, more affluent travellers rely on air travel to cover the long distances.
In line with the logistic challenges ahead, data from Nigeria’s airport authority shows Abuja Airport handled 4,859 domestic flights in December compared with the 171 that flew in or out of Kaduna.
Kaduna Airport is located in a restive area plagued by insecurity and kidnappings, prompting airlines including British Airways, Lufthansa and South African Airways opting not to fly into Kaduna with Ethiopian Airlines agreeing to use the alternative airport.
“Roads leading to the airport have undergone renovation,” said the FAAN official, adding that extra police had already been deployed along the main road on which passengers will be able to travel in buses, guarded by security. Nigeria has postponed an Abuja trade conference meant to drum-up investment, underlining the potential impact to business from the six-week closure.