UK fears for passengers’ safety as Nigeria plans Abuja airport closure

Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja
Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja

The British government has expressed concern over Nigeria’s plan to close Abuja’s Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport for six weeks in 2017.

The UK Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, Harriet Thompson, met with Nigeria’s Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, on Thursday, three days after the government announced the planned closure.

The government had announced on Monday that all Abuja-bound domestic and international flights would be diverted to Kaduna for six weeks in 2017 to enable the government upgrade the airport’s runway.

Passengers would then be transported by government-provided buses to Abuja, some 210 kilometres away.

Some Nigerians have expressed concerns about passengers’ safety, amid reports of banditry and kidnapping along Kaduna-Abuja Road.

Mr. Thompson raised the same fears on Thursday, the News Agency of Nigeria reported.

Mr. Sirika said the government would provide necessary security to travelers.

He told the UK diplomat that the closure was to let the badly damaged airport runway be reconstructed.

The minister said the runway would still be put to use while the work was ongoing on.

He said the six-week closure was to take advantage of the dry season to reconstruct the mid-section of the runway.

According to him, the government has put in place adequate arrangement to provide buses to convey passengers to Abuja or to railway station, depending on the choice of the passengers involved.

“A robust security arrangement involving the police, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence, Immigration service and Customs service have been made to escort passengers from Kaduna to Abuja during the period of closure.

“I would rather lose $five billion than lose one person,” the minister said. “Kaduna Airport will be used as alternative,’’ he said.

On the involvement of the airline operators, the minister said that all relevant parties were involved and assured Mr. Thompson of maximum comfort during the reconstruction.

He commended the diplomat for the visit and extolled the relationship between Nigeria and the Government of United Kingdom.


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  • absam777

    Why can’t they arrange helicopter shuttle instead of buses? I really wonder how this policy makers think.

    • Naijaman

      How many two-seater choppers do you think can trans airlift a 747 load of passengers and their baggage? Even a military-type chinook chopper can’t accomplish that herculean task in one shot!

  • Rommel

    Where are the Dumbo disciples that claim their god rebuilt airports in Nigeria,where are those animals?

    • sab

      The first and only project Buhari has initiated since 29 May 2015 remains the Helipad he built in Daura for his personal use. Otherwise tell Nigerians any other project his administration has initiated.

  • Rommel

    President Jonathan remains the worst thing that happened to Nigeria

    • sab

      You still continue with your hate propaganda. Why not come to Lagos and see the Lagos airport? What about the roads? Have you forgotten what Fashola said of the roads? And of course the railways. Still fresh in mind what Amaechi said of the Aba/PH railway as well as PMB eulogies on the Kaduna/Abuja railway. The fact FG wants to upgrade the runway of Abuja airport does not take any credit away from what GEJ did. Take it or leave it!

      • Rommel

        Closing airports for badly needed repairs as airlines are threatening to stop coming has now turned into upgrade for you,yet you accuse me of propaganda,are you serious? initially,I read your posts with some amusement but now,I am beginning to think that you could be delirious

    • LionHeart

      You must be drunk because your comment makes no sense and is irrelevant to the topic of discussion.

  • FirecloudOFGOD

    How can a government that cannot guarantee the security of its top officials be able to guarantee ordinary passengers travelling 210 km away and along a notorious highway?

  • tsunami1earthquake

    I wonder what the British High Commissioner wanted. If Nigeria left the Abuja Airport in its present comatose condition, this same High Commissioner would complain about it. Now that Nigeria has taken a bold and commendable step to upgrade and fix the problems in the Airport, the same High Commissioner is complaining! What a day! People can never say ‘well done’ to others striving to make things better for others.

    I went through the report and did not see anywhere the High Commissioner offered a more plausible alternative to the matter. If this situation had happened in the UK, the Commissioner should tell us what the UK Government would have done.

    Armchair criticisms we usually find among these diplomats! Nothing else.

    • Naijaman

      Don’t they do the same in the UK all the time? I have been bused many times between Heathrow and Gatwick. So, that High Commissioner should pack well well!