| KADUNA, Nigeria, March 6
KADUNA, Nigeria, March 6 Two days before Nigeria
shuts down Abuja's airport for repairs to its dilapidated
runway, workers still need to fit electrics, seating and toilets
to a new terminal at Kaduna, which will handle the capital's air
traffic but lacks capacity.
International airlines that fly into Abuja have already
refused to use Kaduna, a provincial city airport, because of
security worries, and domestic passengers could face major
delays if the new terminal is not ready, discouraging travel and
isolating the capital.
Most floor and ceiling tiles have been fitted and all air
conditioning units have been installed, but electrical fittings
are unfinished, chairs for the arrival and departure areas lie
strewn about and a car park expansion is 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. A Reuters reporter who
visited the site several times between March 3-5 counted about
50 builders on the site, compared with about 30 in
Kaduna airport officials have said the existing terminal
will be used if the new site is not ready and can handle up to
500 passengers at any one moment - equivalent to three or four
short-haul jets. Some critics of the plan say that number is
The road network in Nigeria, Africa's largest economy
covering an area about twice the size of California, is in poor
condition and more affluent travellers rely on air travel to
cover the long distances.
In a sign of the logistical 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. Airlines including British Airways
, Lufthansa and South African Airways have
refused to fly into Kaduna. Ethiopian Airlines has said it will
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.
(Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; editing by Richard Lough)