Abuja Airport Closure and Safety Concerns Over Road Transportation
From March 8 to April 19, 2017, one of Nigeria’s busiest airports, the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA) in Abuja, will be closed to air traffic. This dramatic measure is to enable the Federal Government carry out a total re-construction on the badly damaged airport runway. The project is scheduled to be completed in 6 weeks.
The closure of the airport to Nigeria’s capital city, which is home to over six million people, government officials, civil servants, politicians, national lawmakers and other sundry personalities, will likely throw this key city into a socio-economic crisis.
In an article by Messr R.A. Akerele, D. Olaifa & Patrick, which was published in the Vanguard newspaper on February 14, 2017, the authors argued that the Abuja airport closure will impact the Abuja economy in the following ways: reduction in hotel room bookings, low patronage of restaurants and low patronage of taxis. They also posited that other private businesses, and even government work, would be negatively impacted. In the same vein, the airport’s business community is expected to record huge revenue loss from landing and parking fees, passenger tax, in-flight catering, courier services as well as import-export companies.[i]
Perhaps, the biggest challenge in all these lies in the alternative travel plan itself. While the construction lasts, the plan is to redirect all air traffic heading to the Abuja Airport to the Kaduna Airport, which is over 200 kilometers and about three hours by road from Abuja. In other words, Abuja-bound passengers are expected to fly to the Kaduna Airport, then board a vehicle and travel by road for at least three hours to Abuja, the last-mile destination.
It is not the amount of time spent traveling that is the challenge, but the apprehension of a safe travel. [ii] According to a report on road accidents published by the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Abuja and Kaduna rank the two most dangerous routes for road travelers in Nigeria. The report states that in the first six months of 2016, Abuja recorded the most number of road crashes in Nigeria with 609 incidents, which claimed the lives of 146 passengers – the fourth highest death rate due to road accidents. 1,269 persons were injured in the state, the second highest in Nigeria.
Kaduna on the other hand, is second on the ignominious league table of accidents, with 291 crashes that led to 265 deaths – the highest recorded in Nigeria in the first six months of last year. The state also boasts of the highest number of injuries recorded on road accidents in Nigeria with 1,349 persons injured.
Overall, the entire Nigerian road accidents recorded from January to June 2016 is the second highest in the last five years with 4,809 crashes. 2014 witnessed the highest incident with 5,255 crashes. The 2016 statistics shows a 5 percent increase in both cases of vehicular crashes and the resultant deaths. With the imminent increase in the number of road travels on the Kaduna/Abuja routes due to this plan, no one can confidently rule out the possibility of more cases of crashes, injuries and deaths occurring within this corridor.
Already, cases of accidents are being recorded as the Federal Government attempts to rehabilitate the bad portion of the Abuja-Kaduna road ahead of the increase in traffic. The sector commander of the Kaduna State Command of Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Francis Udoma, confirmed that there have been series of accidents along the Kaduna/Abuja Expressway since the road project began. “When you pass through the expressway, you will see accident vehicles littering around. The issue is that there are a lot of diversions as a result of the ongoing road work. There are also many settlements along the road, yet some drivers don’t maintain the speed limit. We have also had cases of head-on collisions. So, over speeding remains a big challenge, especially with long vehicles. Our men are always by the expressway to caution drivers on speed,” he said.[iii]
Unfortunately, the people who will be affected by the Abuja Airport closure are left with two key choices: travel irrespective of the safety concerns or reschedule travel plans within the period. But, if the exigencies of your business or career require that you must travel within this time, ensure that you identify and adhere to all safety precautions – including ensuring your driver’s adherence to all the traffic rules. But, most importantly, ensure that you procure insurance plans to cover yourself and your loved ones, as well your investments and assets, ahead of embarking on these high-risk travels.
That said, we must always recognise that accidents can happen to anyone, irrespective of wherever they may be – even while in the peace and quiet of their homes. This is why it is critical to take an insurance policy that protects you from an unfortunate and unplanned financial loss that may result from an accident that destroys the content of your home, accidents involving your vehicles, injuries or death resulting from personal accidents, or even theft, in a single premium offering. The Leadway Household, Automobile and Personal Accident Policy (L-HAPPy) serves this purpose. L-HAPPy covers buildings and/or their contents (whether property is rented or owned), along with the policyholder’s motor vehicles, in addition to the personal accident and legal occupier’s liability. In other words, it provides reimbursement for expenses incurred from legal liability as a result of injury to a visitor or household member.
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[i] ‘Closure of Abuja International airport’, – February 14, 2017; http://www.vanguardngr.com/2017/02/closure-of-abuja-international-
[ii] ‘2016 Half Year Corps Performance Report’, – September 1, 2016; www.frsc.gov.ng/publications)
[iii] ‘Accidents, delays as work on Abuja-Kaduna Express way progresses’ – February 12, 2017