Nigeria To Shut Down National Airport, Citing Runway ‘Overuse’

image012Jan. 2, 2017 (GIN) – Aviation officials have ordered the shutdown of the nation’s nearly-new international airport at Abuja, the capital, after severe problems on the facility’s single runway were reported.

The Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, named after Nigeria’s first President, offered direct flights to capitals of Africa and Europe. However, runway problems developed due to “overuse”, according to the News Agency of Nigeria.

The airport’s website gives a rosy picture of the facility. “At our recently-upgraded airport facility you will enjoy first-class amenities and the best hospitality Nigeria has to offer. The new Airport Expressway makes it possible to reach Abuja city from the airport faster than ever before.”

But news reports said badly damaged conditions on the 27-year-old runway raised concerns among pilots and air traffic controllers.

The Abuja airport is now scheduled for “total reconstruction” of the runway’s midsection for six weeks from February to March.

“From start to finish of the runway, it will take six months,” said Minister of State for Aviation, Sen Hadi Sirika. “However, we will be using the runway almost throughout the period except for about six weeks when the runway will be closed.”

Meanwhile, the airport at Ikeja near Lagos, built during World War II, appears to be functioning well. Originally known as Lagos International Airport, it was renamed in the mid-1970s after a former Nigerian military head of state, Murtala Muhammed. The international terminal, modelled after Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport opened March 1979 and was the main base for Nigeria’s flag carrier, Arik Air.

During the closure, flights will be diverted to the Kaduna Airport, a 2 1/2 hour ride from the capital. Repairs are estimated in the millions.

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