Nigeria’s Abuja airport will close for six weeks from February 2017 in order to undergo repairs to its badly damaged runway.
The government announced the move on Tuesday in the wake of threats by some airlines to stop flying to Abuja, the capital city.
Dubai-based airline Emirates actually stopped flying to Abuja in October this year, citing the state of the runway among other factors, for its decision.
Nigerian authorities said flights to Abuja will be diverted to Kaduna, an airport used primarily for domestic flights. On Tuesday Nigeria’s Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika told the press that Kaduna airport was well-equipped to handle the extra demand.
“It has a very robust, functional, effective runway,” Sirika said. “Those facilities within Kaduna are enough and adequate for the traffic within that period.”
However, analysts say Kaduna, which handled only 12 flights in December 2015, compared to Abuja’s 812 during the same period, doesn’t have the facilities nor capacity to be an alternative airport.
Moreover, Kaduna lies about 160 km (100 miles) to the north of Abuja and is linked by a pot-holed road where kidnappings have taken place. In July, Sierra Leone’s deputy high commissioner was kidnapped on the road connecting Abuja and Kaduna.