On Wednesday, the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport resumed operation, six weeks after it was shut down for the repair of its runway. Kaduna Airport was used as alternative while the repair lasted.
Industry sources put the cost of movement of flights to Kaduna, the preparation of the airport to serve as alternative, including associated projects and security at about N3.2 billion.
The Kaduna airport witnessed flurry of activities during the given period when most of the domestic airlines and few international carriers operated at the airport. The temporary designation of the airport as alternative to Abuja galvanised economic activities, creating inevitable market around the airport, as businesses yearned to meet miscellaneous demands of passengers, from eateries to other services.
But now that huge flight traffic has returned to the airport at the Federal Capital Territory, which has become beehive of activities since Wednesday as airlines, which battled with challenging logistics and initial low load factor and passengers that have to travel three hours from Abuja to Kaduna to board their flights, heaved a long sigh of relief.
To effectively serve as alternative to Abuja, Kaduna airport was upgraded to Category 9 with improved fire cover, expanded and rehabilitated runway, improved instrument landing system and erection of the passenger terminal, which was literally abandoned when the airport remodeling progamme was terminated.
Before it served as alternative to Abuja, Kaduna airport was receiving about two commercial flights a day, so it was never a busy airport and that explained why there was no hurry to rebuild its terminal as the hajj terminal was put in use for the lean number of passengers that travel through the airport.
Industry observers while acknowledging the upgrade of facilities at the airport lamented that they would become underutilised now that traffic has moved back to Abuja.
“From the road reconstruction to the deployment of security operatives, the Kaduna airport projects must have cost over N3.2 billion. They spent billion because all the vehicles from Abuja to Kaduna and vice versa were escorted by security operatives in their pick-up vans. So you can estimate how much that cost the federal government. When I travelled from Abuja to Kaduna to board flight to Lagos we were escorted by two policemen in Hilux van until we arrived. All the vehicles that left were escorted. They would put road safety (Federal Road Safety Corp) at the back; they would put police escort in front. The money spent on these activities is crazy,” an inside source told THISDAY.
But besides this reality, which seems to stymie the plan to have Ethiopia Airlines or any international operation beyond Hajj services in Kaduna, the Kaduna airport has all the necessary facilities to function as international airport. It has the largest remote parking space among the Nigerian airports. Now it has the most upgraded landing aids and runway. Government should not allow these facilities to be idle, so it should tinker ways to make the airport more functional. Allowing it to be underutilised will not justify the huge resources spent on its upgrade.