Abuja hotels planning survival strategy
• Airport cab operators, other service providers count loss
• Economic expert, NSE Opposed Closure
Major hotels operating in Abuja, the political capital of Nigeria are all caught in a frenzy, as they envisage loosing the market to Kaduna where all Abuja – bound planes are to be diverted throughout the period of repairs.
A visit to some of the major hotels in Abuja at the weekend indicated an atmosphere of worries, as they weigh in on the development, which some of them say portends ominous consequences on job security.
The Guardian learnt from the hoteliers that some international events earlier scheduled to hold in Abuja during the period of the airport repairs have either been cancelled, rescheduled and in some instances equally moved to Kaduna, to cut down the cost of the event.
One of such events is an international infrastructural summit earlier billed to hold in Abuja during the period of the repairs.In a mail announcing the re-scheduling of the event to one of the hotels by the organisers made available to The Guardian, the Group wrote: “Please be advised that the Summit is rescheduled to 15-16 May 2017, following the Federal Government of Nigeria’s announcement of the closure of Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport. The airport will be closed for essential maintenance for a period of six months, with the critical runway repairs scheduled for closure for a period of six weeks from 8 March, 2017.’’
Some of the Hotels, it was learnt were meeting to strategise on survival measures, with one top management staff in one of the biggest hotels in the territory suggesting his hotel may deploy vehicles to convey its hotel’s Abuja -bound passengers from Kaduna as part of incentives to attract them to the hotel.
The staff who asked not to be named as the idea had not been concluded explained that the move was part of survival instincts being explored to keep the hotel afloat during the period.
Meanwhile, a Development Economist, Mr. Odilim Enwegbara and the President of the Nigerian Society of Engineers [NSE], Engr. Otis Anyaeji, have declared that the closure of the Abuja Airport will come at a very huge cost to the Nigerian economy and would ultimately delay Nigeria’s recovery from recession.
Speaking in a chat with The Guardian, Enwegbara like Otis insisted that the closure was uncalled for and advised the Federal Government to discard the idea.
His words: “For me, the closure of the Abuja Airport is uncalled for. Major airports around the world almost always undergo repairs, expansion and upgrades. They do so without having to be completely shut down. If this government wanted to find a way around it, few heads could be brought together to help government solve the problem in a way that keeps the airport partially running.
“The only reason behind this shutdown is that some powerful politicians want it to happen at all costs. So, it is only happening because someone wants to put in place the long forgotten Kaduna airport along with repairing the Abuja-Kaduna road.”
On the cost implication to the economy, he said: “In terms of economic losses, Abuja will lose billions in landing revenue and oil companies refilling the aircrafts too will lose revenue to the extent that they could temporarily lay off their employees. Hotels and restaurants in Abuja too will lose serious revenues from the airlines and passengers.
“There’s also the issue of security and movement of passengers to and from Kaduna. That has not been fully addressed. Yes, it’s going to enhance the Abuja – Kaduna rail. But, then, who bears the costs? Passengers or airlines? People, whose flights are either too late or too earlier, would be forced to sleep in a hotel in Kaduna. Are those not some of the unnecessary costs on passengers?” he rhetorically asked.
In his own intervention on the issue, the NSE President, Engr. Otis said the cost implication of the closure of the Abuja airport would include stretching Nigeria’s economic recession further.
Anyaeji explained that as a result of his association’s objection to the planned closure, it had written to President Muhammadu Buhari to clearly state its views on the government’s adopted strategies for the repairs, pointing out that Nigeria’s adopted strategies were unusual and uneconomical.
He argued that the government’s strategies did not take into account standard engineering methods for such works, which are less costly.He added that to close an airport of Abuja status was akin to shutting down the economy of the country, which would further distress Nigeria’s economy.
He further explained: “The NSE has carried out an extensive and robust review of the phenomenal and devastating impact, which the proposed closure of Abuja airport would impose on the competitiveness of our economy, which is already steeped in deep recession.