Nigeria plans to close airport in capital for runway repairs

AP News
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Posted: Jan 02, 2017 12:26 PM

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria's government plans to close the airport in the capital, Abuja, for six weeks to repair a runway that some airlines have described as dangerous, an aviation ministry statement said Monday.

The government plans to close Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, the country's second-busiest, for most of February and March. Work by German construction company Julius Berger would continue after the airport reopens and is expected to take six months, the ministry said.

During the scheduled closure, flights would be diverted to Kaduna city, which is 250 kilometers (155 miles) from Abuja on a road frequented by bandits who sometimes kidnap people for ransom. The government plans to provide security for buses that will be used to shuttle passengers from Kaduna's small airport to Abuja.

Kaduna has rail service to Abuja, but the railroad station is 45 kilometers (28 miles) and a 50-minute drive from the airport.

It's unclear if some flights will need to be canceled. Kaduna's airport is unlikely to be able to accommodate the traffic that Azikiwe does. Airline officers go through handwritten lists of passengers and issue handwritten boarding cards since the airport does not have computers.

At Abuja airport, a South African Airways plane was damaged on landing in August. In October, Emirates airline stopped flying to Abuja from its base in Dubai, partly blaming the state of the runway. Other airlines also have threatened to stop flights to Abuja, saying the runway is dangerous.

Aviation officials realize the "high level of discomfort and inconvenience" the closure of one of West Africa's busiest airports will cause and have a scheduled a meeting Thursday with the people and businesses most affected in an effort to make the switch to Kaduna "seamless and hitch-free," the statement said.

Inadequate maintenance of infrastructure ranging from oil refineries to roads long has been a problem in Nigeria, mainly because of corruption.