Nigeria may lose as much as $1 billion (about N400 billion) owing to the temporary closure of the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja.
A former Minister of Aviation, Babatunde Omotoba, who made the projection said that the economy would lose about N400 billion with the shutdown of the airport as many businesses have also shut down while some foreign airlines have cancelled their flights to Abuja during the period.
Sources at the airport also corroborated Omotoba’s statement, pointing out that many businesses are expected to wind down or render skeletal services, while services that depend on daily transit of air passengers to the Federal Capital would close shop.
Omotoba said: “This movement is costing us so much. Some foreign airlines have cancelled their flights to Abuja during the period. Many businesses have also shut down. I have come down to Lagos and I want to stay here for two weeks, at least. When I am going I will go by road. A lot of people have put off their trips this period and that will have huge impacts on the economy”
He went on: “An economist will look at what Abuja contributes to the GDP in a year and look at what one and half months will contribute; because many economic activities will be paralysed during this time. Nigerian airlines are going to count their losses. The number of travellers will reduce. This will have negative impact on our economy. Many who are in Abuja will be there for the six weeks; so the number of travellers will reduce. This will cost the economy hundreds of billions because a section of the economy will be shut down during this period.”
About three years ago it was projected that Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was $543 billion and that 60 percent of this funds come from Lagos while the other cities generate 40 percent and Abuja and Port Harcourt generate high percentage of the remaining funds.
Omotoba added: “Let us assume that a lot of businesses will not operate fully because of the loss of production, so Abuja will lose about $1 billion during the period, which is about N400 billion. In six weeks, our economy will suffer because you should also know that some of the businesses done in Lagos are also connected to Abuja, so there will be effect of this in Lagos, in Ibadan and other places. So the closure will slow down everything. This will also shut down the routing of most flights from Abuja to other destinations.”
He also noted that there would be additional costs “because people are also worried about kidnapping. It is because of kidnapping that many entrepreneurs said they would shut down their businesses. So it will have major, major impact on our economy.”
The airport was shut down in the midnight of Wednesday, March 8, 2017 for the rehabilitation of its runway, which will take about for six weeks. The Kaduna airport was designated as alternative to the Abuja airport.
Many international airlines declined to operate from Kaduna airport citing security concerns. They have closed their Abuja offices, cancelling the flights of hundreds of passengers.
Travel expert, Ikechi Uko said that the economy would definitely experience contraction due to the closure of the Abuja airport, pointing out that many hotels would lose customers and businesses that deal with air travel while passenger movement would be drastically affected, while it would be a boom for road transporters.
THISDAY also gathered that some companies in Abuja would provide skeletal service as their top officials had left the city on holidays and those who have offices in Lagos have moved to the nation’s commercial city pending when the airport would resume operations. All the domestic carriers have moved their operations to Kaduna as an alternative airport to Abuja.