The Kaduna International Airport, which was a beehive of activities up till a few days ago, is gradually going back to its sleepy nature, as the bustle of the past six weeks has eventually ended.
On March 8, 2017, the Kaduna International Airport sprang to life, as unprecedented number of commercial flights landed and took off on the first day of flight diversion from Abuja. Thereafter, operations of the various airlines and business activities continued to boom following the shutdown of the Abuja International Airport for major repairs that lasted six weeks.
It was gathered that it took the federal government over two months to raise the level of facilities at the Kaduna airport in order to take over Abuja’s responsibilities. Our reporter who visited the airport yesterday observed that the very busy airport is gradually going back to its former state, as both human and vehicular traffic have dropped drastically. Majority of traders who thronged the airport for business activities have left as they no longer enjoy high sales.
It was also observed that some communication networks and traders that initially came to display their goods at the airport have gone. Although passengers were yet to come as at the time of visit to the airport, it was gathered that the aircraft expected for the day was likely to land in the afternoon. The car park, which was usually filled to capacity, had just a few cars parked as at yesterday.
Also, only few restaurants and petty traders were seen operating while others have left the airport. Even at the access gate to the airport, it was gathered that officers who mount the gate to collect entrance fees have recorded a drastic reduction in amount of money they make on a daily basis from over N200,000 to less than N50,000.
According to an officer with the marshalling unit in the Operations Department, Fred Fadason, the airport has gone back to its normal schedule of operating with three domestic flights including Arik, Azman and Medview. He however noted that there is an additional domestic flight called Danaco.
“During the boom, by 10am, we might have had 10 to 15 flights landing but it is no longer so. Among the regular domestic flights, we have those who have increased their flight schedule. Like Medview, which operates only twice a week (Tuesday and Thursday), has chosen to be coming on a daily basis, but with no specific time to arrive. All activities at the airport have dropped, but the only joy is that the Abuja diversion brought about great improvement to the Kaduna airport compared to what it used to be in the past,” he said.
According to Fadason, the ongoing economic predicament contributed to the situation, adding that the Kaduna airport experienced the influx of traffic because the traffic of the seat of power in the country shifted to Kaduna. “If you have an airport, which is viable, it means the industries, factories and companies around are doing well but when the economic situation of the people is poor, an average man will rather travel by road without thinking of the safety so as to save cost. The cost of maintaining the aircrafts is capital-intensive,” he said.
The head of JKJ Cargo, Elvis Chunuwe, a company that takes care of unaccompanied cargo, lamented what he described as drastic reduction in volume of cargo and parcels they receive, saying government needs to put in place measures that will make the airport sustain the boom it experienced in the last six weeks. “We were very busy loading and offloading as we receive cargoes from Port-Harcourt, Owerri and Lagos but now we only receive few from Lagos,” he said.
A restaurant operator, Madam Joy, said that in the six weeks of the boom of the airport, she got many hundreds of customers on a daily basis, but now she cannot boast of 15 daily. “In fact, we have had to reduce the quantity of food we cook because the customers are not there. In fact, we have reduced the price of food from N500 to N300 so as to encourage the few people coming around to patronise us,” she said.
Similarly, a petty trader who sells water and local drinks, Mama Bola said that though the Abuja diversion brought joy to them as she made a lot of sales; adding that the resumption of Abuja airport has reduced her joy as she hardly sell ten sachets of water in a day. Sellers of caps and shoes inside the airport also lamented poor sales due to reduced activities and human traffic at the airport.
Workers at one of the eateries in the airport said their business experienced a serious boom in the last six weeks but lamented low patronage as the Abuja airport resume operation. “Before now, we see hundreds of customers on a daily basis but now we hardly see three people come to buy something. It is highly discouraging. Although the airport authority has asked us to be patient, saying measures are put in place to improve the situation. So, we are waiting before we know the next step to take,” one of the workers said.
Meanwhile, The Manager of Kaduna International Airport, Mrs. Amina Ozi-Salami, recently disclosed that the airport witnessed the movement of 3,433 aircrafts with 170,150 passengers in 35 days. According to her, the average movement of aircrafts daily during the period stands at 101 while movement of passengers daily was 4,861. She also mentioned that aircrafts including Arik, Azman, Dana air, Aero, Air peace, Overland, First nation and Medview among others operated domestic airlines.
The train service from Abuja to Kaduna, she also said, conveyed 18,794 passengers from March 8 to 29, 2017 in 21 round trips, adding that The Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) operated three Daily Return Schedule Service from Idu (Abuja) to Kaduna except Saturdays and Sundays. “With this development, Kaduna International Airport will never go back to its former status again because some foreign airlines have indicated their intention to continue flying from Kaduna to their destinations so as to make passengers from the North-West, North-East and North-Central have closer departure point,” she said.
While Daily Trust gathered that the foreign airlines are yet to begin to fly to or from or to Kaduna since the reopening of the Abuja airport, many expressed optimism that the airport can still boom again if government will make the necessary moves.