For the six weeks that flights were diverted from the Nnamdi Azikiwe international airport, Abuja, Kaduna airport was a beehive of activities.
The diversion boosted businesses and created many jobs in Kaduna. At least 4,000 flights were said to have used the airport during those six weeks.
However, with the reopening of the Abuja airport last week, Kaduna has returned to its former quite state.
When TheCable visited Kaduna airport around 11:30am on Monday, the atmosphere was different. Apart from officials of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), taxi drivers and some labourers, the place was virtually empty.
Some of the FAAN staff were seen seating idly under surrounding trees, while labourers continued working on some parts of the terminal.
A FAAN official, who spoke off record, said since the reopening of the Abuja airport, “nothing much had been happening”.
“As you can see, there is no much happening here again since last week when Abuja airport was reopened,” he said.
“The place is looking empty compared to the pressure and congestion that was witnessed here during the diversion.”
The official said three airlines – Azman, Dana and Medview – were the only ones that have used the airport in the last one week.
On Monday, an aircraft belonging to Azman was said to have departed to Lagos with over 100 passengers on board.
Abdullahi Adamu, a sales representative of Coca-Cola, is one of those whose business has been affected by the current situation at the airport.
Adamu said business reached its peak during the diversion from Abuja.
“People were always calling me to place orders. I used to work up till 11pm. In a day, I sold a truck of bottle water and Coca-Cola. I was able to meet my sales target within a week,” Adamu said.
“But since the reopening of the Abuja airport, everything just came to a stop. Since then, business has been bad. I came here around 8:00am and we have just been seating under the tree without any sales.”
But Mamodu Ahmed, a taxi driver there, said “things are back to normal”.
“This is how things were before the diversion. So, it is nothing strange to us. We are back to square,” Ahmed said.
He added that the hope of booming business during the diversion got dashed when the federal government decided to contact Chisco Transport company to convey passengers to Abuja.
“We had high hopes for a booming business when they were planning for the diversion, only to realise that Chisco was given contract for carrying passengers to Abuja,” he said.
“We were just left in the cold. We didn’t expect that things were going to be like that. But all the same, we still thank God for what we made during the diversion.”
TheCable gathered that as a result of lack of activities at the airport, the ATM machines installed during the diversion would soon be removed.
An official of Access Bank told this newspaper that there was no point for any bank to operate an ATM at the airport when no serious business activity is taking place.
“You can see how empty the airport is! We installed ATM here because of the influx of passengers during the diversion,” he said.
“The diversion is over and there are no more influx of passengers, there is no serious business here, so it does not make sense having our ATM machine here.”
It’s not just banks that are lamenting about the unfriendly business environment. Hotels too are trying to adjust.
Checks at places like Assa Pyramid Hotel, Hotel Seventeen and Bafra Hotel shows that the volume of people checking in have drastically dropped.
A staff of Pyramid told TheCable that the hotel was fully booked during the diversion.
“We had an unprecedented patronage as our hotel was full booked throughout the diversion, until when Abuja airport was reopened,” she disclosed.
But in spite of the reopening of Abuja airport, the security personnel that were deployed in the airport, are still on ground.
The federal government spent billions of naira to upgrade facilities at the Kaduna airport.
Last week, Nasir el-Rufai, governor of Kaduna, listed the benefits his state got from the closure of Nnamdi Azikiwe international airport.
In a statement by Samuel Aruwan, spokesman of the governor, el-Rufai said the repairs of the airport terminal offered Kaduna the opportunity of receiving local and international flights.
“The diversion of Abuja flights to Kaduna airport demonstrated federal government’s confidence in the state,” the statement read.
“In preparation for the diversion of flights, the federal government rehabilitated the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway. The Kaduna State government complemented this by repairing the Western Bye-pass of the Nnamdi Azikiwe Expressway and constructing a new 5.2 kilometers road to link the airport road with the Rigasa Train Station.
“We have also installed street lights on major roads leading to and from the airport to facilitate the movement of passengers between Kaduna and Abuja.
Commending the federal government for making Kaduna the alternative during the closure of Abuja airport, el-Rufai said: “The residents of Kaduna will continue to benefit from these investments long after the reopening of the Abuja Airport.”
One can only hope that the culture of mismanagement which is a major challenge in our country would not take its toll on Kaduna airport.
For now, those who reaped a bountiful harvest for a month and two weeks are still finding it difficult to cope with reality.