JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Nigeria on Monday announced the imminent closure of the international airport at Abuja, the capital, for six weeks to repair the runway.
The airport closure likely could delay the return home of President Muhammadu Buhari, who left the country on vacation on Jan. 19 and who has remained in London for medical treatment of an undisclosed condition.
Information Minister Lai Mohammed told a news conference that Abuja International Airport will be closed from Wednesday until April 9 for repairs to the runway, which experts say is in shocking disrepair. A South African Airways jet was damaged on landing there in August.
The government has urged airlines to fly instead to the small airport in Kaduna, 250-kilometers (155-miles) north of Abuja accessible by a highway notorious for accidents, hijackings and kidnappings.
All international airlines except Ethiopian Airlines have temporarily cancelled flights and said that they will not fly to Kaduna, apparently fearing for their passengers' safety.
Airlines including British Airways, Air France and Delta will continue to fly to Nigeria's economic hub of Lagos, but the closure of the capital's airport means a major disruption for government and private business.
The government has said it will provide security for buses to shuttle passengers from Kaduna airport to Abuja. On Monday, police beefed up security on the road, Premium Times newspaper reported. It quoted police chief Ibrahim Idris as saying measures include explosives-sniffing dogs at the airport and 24-hour helicopter surveillance of the highway.