Nigeria on Tuesday reopened its main Abuja airport after six weeks of closure to enable the authorities to carry out long overdue work to resurface its potholed runway.
The Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport was closed to all domestic and international flights on March 8, forcing flights to divert to Kaduna, some 190 kilometres (120 miles) to the north.
The airport re-opened a day ahead of schedule with an Ethiopian Airlines passenger plane touching down on the resurfaced runway just after midday.
Aviation officials were upbeat as businesses and commercial activities at the airport began to come back to life.
“After careful planning and successful execution of the repairs works of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport runway, we were able to complete the works and go through certification…ahead of time,” Saleh Dunoma of Nigeria’s Federal Airport Authority told reporters.
“A lot of changes have taken place, in terms of the pavement that is, the runway, the taxi way and the aprons. All of them underwent serious repairs,” Dunoma said.
“They are now much stronger, much safer and they will last a little bit longer than before. This is a great achievement because these are the key infrastructure as far as the airport is concerned,” he added.
The Abuja runway was built in 1982 with a 20-year lifespan but the aviation ministry described it as having become “dilapidated” and “unsafe”, leaving no option but to resurface.
Ethiopian Airlines was the only foreign carrier that switched routes to Kaduna during the closure.
Others, including British Airways, Air France, Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines and South African Airways, refused to do so amid serious concern about Kaduna’s capacity to handle long-haul flights as well as safety for passengers and staff forced to travel by road between the two cities.