Abuja Airport closure: Traders, transporters, others count gains in Kaduna, losses in Abuja

The new look of Kaduna International Airport on Tuesday (7/2/17) in preparation for smooth take-off of flight operations as Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja closes temporary for repairs.

Just a few days after the closure of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja for maintenance works and routing of flights to the Kaduna Airport, traders, transporters and others having businesses to do with air transportation in Abuja have been counting their losses as a result of the shut- down, while their colleagues in Kaduna are smiling to the banks already, due to booming business.

For many businesses operating small shops, airline operators, hoteliers and business owners in and around the Abuja airport premises, the six weeks closure is tantamount to six weeks without any income.

In reaction to concerns raised by stakeholders on the economic loss to the country, Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, admitted that many stakeholders, would be out of business for the period of six weeks, including hoteliers, car hire operators and others rendering sundry services. He appealed to them to see the period as their own way of rendering Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to the country.

Indeed, the petrol stations along the airport road and recharge card sellers would also bear the full brunt of hardship due to the closure of the airport.

It was gathered that staff of the international airlines have been placed on temporary leave without pay for the six weeks closure.

Ali Abdulazeez Aliu, Executive Chairman of the airport’s unit of car hire association said they would definitely be out of income during the closure, as each of his members would lose at least N10, 000 to N20, 000 daily if there are no passengers to carry.

But some airport taxi operators are already eking out a living through the closure of the airport by picking passengers to Kaduna Airport for between N15, 000 and N20, 000

Margaret Patrick, a vendor stand operator at the international departure hall, said she would definitely close her stand and stay at home.

She estimated a loss of about of N10, 000 per week during the closure.

Patrick, who also sells recharge cards and few books, said she was yet to figure out how she would survive the six weeks closure.

Aliyu Yahaya, who trades in clothes and jewellery at the domestic departure terminal, said up till now, he hasn’t been officially served notice that the airport would be shut down.

“I’m still on standby, waiting for the final word on the matter before I take a decision,” he said, adding that once the airport is shut down, naturally they would vacate their shops.

He said he couldn’t give a definite estimate loss, as his profits fluctuate, depending on the sales of the day, even though he agreed that he would incur some losses.

Nura Mohammed, who deals in shoes and clothes, lamented the closure, saying he would have to relocate to Kano to live with his family, as living without any income in Abuja for six weeks would be devastating.

“If I stay in Abuja, how will I pay my bills and feed without an income?” he asked rhetorically.

One of the aviation cargo handlers, who craved anonymity, said that he had relocated all his staff to Kaduna and rented house for them in the city and at a cost of N2million for the period.

He explained that he might have to reduce his staff for that period, as there would be reduction of air traffic as a result of the refusal of foreign airlines to move to Kaduna Airport.

He said: “International passengers are the major people that carry loads and they have refused to move to Kaduna.”

“I pay N600, 000 annually for the office space I built by himself, which also includes the electricity fee.”

He said some of the food vendors would also have to relocate to Kaduna and might have to continue to pay their workers, who are not mostly adhoc staff.

Some business owners have temporarily relocated to Lagos, with many of them lamenting that they don’t have the luxury of seating down in a vehicle on a three-hour journey to Kaduna Airport.

The Guardian gathered that all the restaurants operating inside the terminal building have closed down and some of them have relocated to Kaduna airport.

The airport as at yesterday was gradually becoming a shadow of itself, but for few passengers who came in to join the free buses to Kaduna airport.

Indeed, the Federal Government would lose a lot of revenue generated through the Federal Airport Authority of Nigerian (FAAN).

It was gathered that an average of 4,300 vehicles, comprising cars, SUVs and trucks enter the airport on a daily basis and pay a tollgate fee of N200, N300 and N500, respectively.

An official of FAAN told The Guardian that in January alone, a total of 102,272 cars, 28,955 SUVs and 279 trucks entered into the airport.
At Kaduna, the reverse is the case, as business activities have sprang up and is booming, even as life returns to the airport community that has experienced a lull in the past years.

Despite the skepticism of some airliners regarding security and standard of facilities on ground, within the few days of operations, several people are now counting the gains of the diversion of flight operations to Kaduna, just as the security situation has improved at the airport and Kaduna metropolis.

Although construction workers at the airport are still putting last minute touches to the terminal wing of the airport and other places, flight operations are going on, as international and domestic airlines were seen taking off and landing.

Taxi operators are already counting their blessings as a result of an increase in patronage since the diversion of flights to airport.

Aliyu Kasim said: “Business has changed and we can work (pick passengers) conveniently now. We even get passengers with ease and all drivers are happy.”

To Balarabe Shuaib: “We enjoy our work. Before, we can spend two days here without getting even one passenger. But now, even the highway is busy since the diversion started some days back.

“You can see checkpoints around. Everywhere is secure and business is going fine.”

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