Since March last year at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the international wing of the Malam Aminu Kano International Airport, MAKIA, has remained shut. The impact has been telling on travellers and business owners in Kano and now they are raising their voice for the airport to reopen fully.
Pressure has continued to mount on the federal government to reopen the international wing of the Malam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA) in Kano State for commercial activities.
The pressure, from both political and business leaders in the North-West region of the country, is coming almost a year after the federal government shut down the airport, along with other international airports in the country. This happened in March 2020 at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja have since September been reopened for international flights. The government’s promise that other international airports, like MAKIA and the Port Harcourt International Airport (PHIA) would be subsequently reopened have remained unfulfilled.
Months later, travellers have been complaining that they have to go to Lagos or Abuja to board a flight that would normally come to Kano.
This development means spending more money for travellers while other businesses like hotels and the likes that depend on the airport have been adversely affected in Nigeria’s centre of commerce.
The state and FG revenues are also affected, business experts noted.
“If you can allow domestic, why not international and this is even as Kano has less COVID-19 cases compared to Lagos and Abuja,” one of the travellers from Kano said.
This traveller also complained that since cargo flights are allowed, it made even little sense to still ban passenger flights.
He said this is even as cargos are coming in through the airport on a daily basis.
A staff of the airport, who does not want to be named, confirmed that an international airline (name withheld) brings two cargos daily since the closure of the international wing.
Reps join calls for reopening of airport
A joint caucus of the Kano/Jigawa House of Representative members on Sunday also joined in calling on the federal government to reopen the international wing of the airport.
The team, led by the majority leader of the House, Alhassan Ado Doguwa, was at the airport with the Kano Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mine and Agriculture (KACCIMA) and stressed that the suspension of international flights to and from the airport has affected international businesses in the state.
This, he said, has forced people to go through Lagos and Abuja airports when travelling abroad.
They said seeing that the Abuja and Lagos airports were shut down at the same time as the Kano one during the pandemic, “it is expected that this one too should be reopened to allow people continue with their normal business easily.”
“We are here basically as a follow up to the visit we had with the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, precisely last Thursday in Abuja. We feel it is also wise and worth doing to come and see for ourselves what is actually on the ground with a view to actually express our concern to the government of the day under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari that this airport, especially the international wing, needs to be reopened like Lagos and Abuja.
“For the business concern of our people in the state and so many other reasons, we as members of the House of Representatives from Kano and Jigawa, feel we need to interact with the agencies of government, especially the Ministry of Aviation, to find out as to why the Aminu Kano Airport still remains shut,” Doguwa has said.
He said at their meeting with the aviation minister, so many reasons were given as to why the airport remains closed, especially with the second wave of the pandemic.
‘We lost over N1trillion, jobs’
On his part, the President of KACCIMA, Dalhatu Abubakar, said the closure has caused many people to lose their capitals worth billions of naira aside from the petty traders that are suffering as they rely on the airport for their livelihood.
“This issue is very serious, honestly, as it has caused us to lose millions daily. Our business people are suffering as they have to travel to Lagos and Abuja for them to go abroad.
“This is to the extent that many of the people that are doing their businesses in the airport are also are suffering. Those that are selling food, the taxi drivers and more are counting losses,” he said.
He said that the Minister of Aviation has invited them to Abuja on Tuesday and that they are going along with the Governor and Emir of Kano to discuss the matter.
“Kano is the commercial nerve centre in the country and the closure of the Aminu Kano International Airport is seriously affecting it economically and socially.
“We all acknowledge the fact that there is relative peace in Kano despite the insecurity bedevilling the country and this cannot be unconnected with our people being busy doing one enterprise or the other which, if the closure of the airport continues, might lead thousands to lose their livelihood.
“In the meantime, there are over 500 travel agencies in Kano whose jobs are threatened by the refusal to allow flight operation in the state.
“An un-estimated amount of money running into billions of naira is lost as a result,” Dalhatu said in an earlier appeal made along with travel agency operators.
Ambassador Usman Darma, the first deputy president of KACCIMA, said, “By our statistics, our members lost over N1 trillion due to this closure and our members get a lot of challenges due to the inconveniences of the business and many lost their lives going to Lagos and Abuja.”
He appreciated the efforts of the members of the National Assembly and the governor and Emir of Kano for their commitment to solving the problem.
‘New international terminal to open soon’
On his part, the Managing Director of the Airport, Captain Rabiu Yadudu said the newly built international wing of the airport is expected to be commissioned soon.
He said he cannot specify the time and date for the return of international flights in Kano but people should exercise patience as they are working hard towards that.
“We were close to opening months ago; it is just this second wave of the pandemic.
“Its primary health concern that made us sustain this closure and we are working very hard to ensure we resolve this using appropriate measures. Once these challenges are solved, international flights will resume much sooner than you expect,” he said.