The Federal Government announced it was closing the Nnamdi Azikiwe airport for repairs between February and March and will thus divert traffic to Kaduna.
As expected, industry watchers are not happy with this decision. Two aviation analysts explained why as reported in the Guardian.
The Chairman, Governing Board of the Nigerian Aviation Safety Initiative (NASI), Capt. Dung Pam, said though temporary closure of the runway was for safety concerns, the effects would be too huge on the already troubled sector.
Pam said that the Kaduna airport would not be able to cope with the traffic that would be coming in, in terms of all the fixed-wing aircraft.
He said: “It is going to be a serious dislocation of the nexus of our air travel system. Every major airport in the country connects to Abuja and Lagos. So, to have that place completely shut down for six weeks will be a huge blow to travelling public. They will be the ones that will be the worst of.”
The chairman recalled that the John F. Kennedy in New York, United States, one of the busiest airports in the world, does its maintenance at night when the traffic is least and never completely shut down a runway.
Aviation Security Consultant, Group Capt. John Ojikutu, said that the choice of Kaduna for air traffic diversion would scare most of the foreign airlines away.
Ojikutu said that with the security issues in the northern parts of the country, none of the American and European airlines will fly to Kaduna.
He said: “My only worry is that they want to use Kaduna for traffic and I ask the question, why can’t they use Minna? Minna may not be as good as Kaduna, but a 737 can land in Minna.
“For them to want to use Kaduna for foreign airlines, I have my doubts that the airlines will go there. It is for security reasons. The way security is built in the north is different from how we have built it here.
“If the people that are creating problems all over the place want to draw world attention to themselves, they will go to that place and create the problem. The Americans and European airlines have their minds on that. They do not want a situation where they would be brought into the conflicts, in such a way as they will be used as scapegoats. So, they would rather go to Lagos to land,” he said