Abuja – Airport cab and other small business operators at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja (NAIA) said they were ready for the loss of business that they would have to bear during the closure of the airport.
The Federal Government has announced that NAIA would be closed for six weeks from March 8 for the repair of its runway by Julius Berger Plc.
Mr Aliyu Abdulazeez-Aliyu, Chairman, Airport Car Hire Association, Abuja Chapter (ACHA), told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), that the association had advised its members to braze up for the challenge.
Abdulazeez-Aliyu said that cab operators at the airport were aware of the closure, adding that prudent spending would help to cushion its effect.
According to him, he has advised the members to begin to cut their expenses in order to be able to save for the rainy day.
“We are aware that this closure would come and that is why we must plan ahead in form of setting up small businesses at home for the family upkeep.
“We hope to wait for that day and plan to see how we can help ourselves within that period but I know that many people will go jobless and some people may not be able to put food on the table for their families.
“In as much as I didn’t believe that government would close down the airport in the Federal Capital Territory, it has become a reality and must braze up to bear the outcome ,” he said.
Abdulazeez-Aliyu disclosed that the Abuja cab operators would not find it easy operate in Kaduna considering the arrangement made by the government to transport passengers from Abuja and Kaduna during the period.
He explained that there was no guarantee that the current volume of passengers in Abuja would move to Kaduna since some foreign airlines might not land in there.
According to him, they are looking at a situation where “we are going to do some selection and take the cars that will be fit to attach with those at Kaduna for that period because they operate under one umbrella”.
ACHA chairman urged the government to ensure that the closure period did not exceed the proposed six week in order not to prolong the suffering of the operators at the airport.
He also called on the government to imbibe good maintenance culture to avoid a repeat of Abuja runway saga.
According to him, what is lacking in this country is maintenance culture and failure to do the right thing at the right time.
“The minister has exposed so many things and from that we have come to realize that the runway of this airport is no longer good for landing.
“We noticed sometimes last year that some international airlines like South African Airways and Emirate have stopped bringing in their big aircraft as a result of the bad runway that often destroyed their landing gears.
“If I am not mistaking, the Lufthansa aircraft that developed gear problem recently is still on the runway but I don’t know whether it has been taken away.
“There are other aircraft belonging to other airlines that have experienced such issues who did not cry out but stopped landing here and that is not the best thing for us,” he said.
Mrs Mercy Andrew, a food vendor at the airport said the situation would bring untold hardship to everyone operating at the airport.
Andrew said she had made temporary alternative arrangement to cushion the effect of the closure during the period.
According to her, whatever has to do with human lives should not be joked with.
“My prayer is that the six weeks should be six weeks and I believe we shall go through it successfully,” she said.
Also, Miss Grace Oviawie, a sales girl at a shop selling provisions said the closure would bring hardship to them but expressed readiness to bear the difficulty.
Oviawie said she would either look for another job or wait for the six weeks to lapse.
She said that business had been slow since the beginning of the year, attributing the situation to recession.
“It will be hard for us but there is nothing we can do other than to stay at home and wait or look for another work because I am working for somebody here,” he said.