Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja (the second busiest airport in the country after Lagos) reopened on April 18, after having been closed for six weeks since March 8 for runway repairs. Following the repairs, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority has officially certified the airport for operations. The airport reopened one day ahead of schedule, with the first international flight by Ethiopian Airlines.
While the airport had been closed, air travelers were diverted to Kaduna International Airport. This resulted in a decline in the number of passengers, according to officials, given the “inconvenience” of diversions to Kaduna.
The distance from Abuja to Kaduna International Airport is 101 miles, more than three hours by road. Security concerns over banditry and terrorism on the Abuja-Kaduna road probably also played a role in the decline in air travel. Apolitical banditry has long been a problem, and Boko Haram continues to be active in northern Nigeria. There were no media reports of Boko Haram attacks on the Abuja-Kaduna road while the Abuja airport was closed. However, the same day the airport reopened, Nigerian media reported that a bomb believed to have been planted by Boko Haram killed one and injured seven near Damaturu in Yobe, 356 miles from Abuja, perhaps ten hours by road. Moreover, at the end of March the Nigerian security services announced that it had foiled an attempted Boko Haram attack on the U.S. embassy and the British high commission (embassy) in Abuja. The U.S. Department of State issued an updated travel warning on April 5, noting that Boko Haram has attacked government and other installations in Abuja and elsewhere. The last serious Boko Haram attacks in Abuja occurred in 2015.
In a country where major infrastructure projects are often delayed, the re-opening of Abuja’s airport is good news.