Despite contingency measures, there are fears that closing the capital’s airport will cause severe economic damage and worsen Nigeria’s ongoing recession.
“We cannot underestimate the damage and revenue loss the government will face in these six weeks,” says Bernard. “Business travel is going to be worst affected… Many people were flying to Abuja in the morning and going back in the evening. Now that is very difficult, and the economic impact could be enormous.”
“The effects of the closure will impact negatively on business not just in Abuja but the country as a whole,” says Tony Ejinkeonye, president of the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “Primarily, the hotels and businesses that depend on visitors will have to scale down or shut down their operations.”
“Business visitors have either postponed or canceled visits. In an economy that has recorded negative growth, this is a decision that was taken at a wrong time. The closure will be for six weeks, but it will take more like a year for businesses to recover from the effect of the closure.”
The many businesses that operate around Nnamdi Azikiwe will be particularly hard hit. Airport services group Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCOL) anticipates losses of over $250,000 each day.
However, economist Nonso Obikili believes that the bleakest predictions are exaggerated.
“Flying to Kaduna is inconvenient but not impossible (and) businesses have had time to plan around this,” he says, adding that the six-week period covers holidays including Easter, which will lessen the impact.
Obikili believes the worst effect may be an image problem.
“This will be a drop in the ocean compared to the economic problems of the past year,” he says. “But I think it is hugely embarrassing that the nation’s capital will have no airport for six weeks — that’s the disaster.”