An International Conference meant to attract about $2.5 billion trade investment into Nigeria, has suffered a three-month postponement, due to the planned temporary closure of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
Organisers of the Nigeria International Trade and Investment Conference, NITIC, in a statement signed by Lukas Asimolokun, on Friday, said the event is to suffer the postponement from March 27 – 29, to June 13 – 15, due to the Airport closure.
The delay is the first sign that government and business activities will be impacted by the six weeks closure of Abuja Airport for runway repairs, just as Africa’s biggest economy grapples with recession.
Minister of State, Aviation, Senator Sirika, had earlier confirmed that the airport would be closed from March 8, until May 26, 2017, adding that the government had concluded arrangements to enable foreign airlines use the smaller Kaduna Airport, which is about 160 km to the North.
The organisers also cited the refusal of most International Airlines, including British Airways, Lufthansa, and South African Airways, to fly to Kaduna, partly due to security concerns, as the main factor that called for putting off the Conference.
Ethiopian Airlines, which confirmed on Friday that it will fly to Kaduna during the Abuja closure, is so far the only foreign Airline to say it will use the alternative Airport.
Sources say the British Foreign Office had already advised against all but essential travel to Kaduna, in a reaction over the security risks in the region where two Germans were kidnapped on the main Abuja – Kaduna road, mid February.
Also, government imposing a 24-hour curfew on parts of Kaduna State at the same period after clashes between herdsmen and villagers killed at least 14 in the region, did not paint a better picture of safety in the Southern part of Kaduna, said the organisers.
They said the Conference, which is aimed particularly at attracting farming investment to boost local food production and reduce the country’s dependency on oil exports, would have targeted foreign donor countries and institutions.
Nigeria’s economy has been shattered by a slump in oil revenues that has eroded public finances, and forced the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to devalue the naira several times, amidst recession.