A general view of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja on February 24, 2016. Picture: STEFAN HEUNIS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
A general view of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja on February 24, 2016. Picture: STEFAN HEUNIS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Lagos — Nigeria is reopening the airport in the capital Abuja on Tuesday, a spokeswoman said, following a six-week closure for runway repairs that disrupted international air traffic to the country. During the shutdown, authorities diverted flights to Kaduna, a provincial airport 160km away, where carriers, including British Airways, Lufthansa and South African Airways, refused to fly on security grounds.

Abuja is the political nerve centre of Africa’s most populous nation and a major business hub in the continent’s biggest economy.

There have been no official estimates of the economic impact of the closure, but Abuja International Airport handled 812 flights in December 2015, the last month for which the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has figures. The comparative figure for Kaduna was 12.

Announcing Abuja airport’s re-opening, FAAN spokeswoman, Henrietta Yakubu, said an Ethiopian Airlines flight from Addis Ababa would land there at around 11.30 am (10.30am GMT).

Authorities had earlier said the airport, which has been closed since March 8, would re-open on Wednesday. "The rehabilitation of the runway was completed 24 hours ahead of schedule," Yakubu said, adding that other airlines’ flights would resume on Wednesday.

The repairs to the badly damaged runway, carried out by construction firm Julius Berger, were scheduled after airlines threatened to stop flying to Abuja. Ethiopian Airlines was the only foreign airline to use Kaduna airport during the closure. Passengers who landed there were transported to the capital on guarded buses along a road where kidnappings have taken place in recent years. However, the six weeks of transfers passed without incident.

Reuters

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