Helicopter service operators in the country are set for a boom time on account of the temporary closure of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja, for its runway repair.
The operators, who are deploying both charter and shuttle service helicopters for different categories of people and pockets, on various routes inwards Abuja, are expecting to make it big with the traffic.
The Guardian learnt from some marketing agents that the shuttle service, which is open to all air travellers, now ranges between N100, 000 to N200, 000 per head, depending on the boarding location and time of booking.
A direct helicopter shuttle service from Lagos to Abuja now goes for between N150, 000 to N200, 000 per head, depending on the operator of choice. Similar flight on Kaduna-Abuja or Minna-Abuja route costs between N50, 000 to N100, 000, depending on airline and time of booking.
Charter services, designated for the corporate bodies and the very rich are priced in millions of naira.
An online marketer said it was not the case that the prices were inflated since all operators were hoping to attract as many patronages as possible within the six-week window.
The Managing Director of Omni-Blu Aviation, Capt. Sunny Adegbuyi, said at least two helicopters have been deployed for the operations. One will run four chartered operations daily on Lagos-Abuja route, while the other is dedicated to shuttle services on Kaduna-Abuja route.
Bristow Helicopters (Nigeria), on its part, said it would continue to offer its Lagos-Abuja fixed-wing charter service via Minna Airport during the closure of the runway at Abuja Airport.
To complement Federal Government efforts to ease commuters’ burden, the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) has released a new timetable for Abuja-Kaduna-Abuja train.
A statement by the commission revealed that the first up train would be departing Idu station, Abuja by 0600hrs signaling the commencement of six trips per day.
The statement also disclosed that two coaches were reserved strictly for airport passengers on both up and down direction while only one SP coach and SPA coach would be for existing passengers.
It also revealed that the train would not stop at Jere and Rijana stations, saying that the directive takes immediate effect and must be strictly complied with.
As part of fall-outs of the closure of the Abuja airport, the Indonesian Embassy has announced a cut down on air travels for the six-week period.
The measure according to the consular office is because they are skeptical about the safety of their officials while travelling by road to Kaduna.
Although embassy sources stated that they were aware of the Federal Government’s safety and security measures, they are however, still not comfortable due to the poor state of the Kaduna road.
As flights coming into Abuja begin the inevitable diversion to Kaduna Airport, the pledge by Heads of security agencies in Nigeria must come alive, even though some international airlines are yet to come to terms with the arrangement as passengers and stakeholders are still unconvinced with the preparations.
Even as the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Ibrahim Idris assured on security a security expert and Chief Executive Officer of Beacon Security Kabir Adamu said enhanced deployment of security personnel on the road, like the IGP said, is not enough to reduce or deter the present crime profile in the state, rather a more proactive measure of routing out the criminals from their enclaves should have being the preference.
Adamu said these bad guys use the forest along the roads to hide, they hide there and I am not aware that any of the security forces is going into the forest to dislodge them or to arrest them. All it would take is for them to come out from the forest, do their thing and go back into the forest. So the opportunity for them to carry out the abductions is much more higher now, because of the increased traffic especially by VIPs on that road.
He explained further that the present security profile of Kaduna state itself is not satisfactory, as the state has become very notorious for kidnapping for ransom, beside the development in Southern Kaduna, with the governor unable to protect the people.
Other stakeholders in the security sector identified lapses like the non availability of street lights on the road stretch leading into the Kaduna airport, making it dangerous for those coming in or out of the Airport a night, especially as some of the places on the over 30-kilometre stretch are without human habitation. The Tarmac is ready, but the Terminals are not, just as the two access roads as well as some other infrastructure are yet to be certified ready.
Meanwhile, the head of Abuja office of Ethiopian Airlines, Firiehiwot Mekonnen said the airline’s first flight will arrive Kaduna today and will continue throughout the six weeks period.