The six weeks closure of the Abuja Airport and the diversion of air traffic to the Kaduna Airport is a boom in businesses for traders along the Abuja-Kaduna highway. AGBO-PAUL AUGUSTINE visited some of the communities and reports their songs of praises.
As the end is in sight, traders on the Abuja-Kaduna Highway, whose businesses witnessed a sudden surge in the past six weeks wished it never ends. Some in their life time, who have never seen the unprecedented vehicular movement in the hitherto pothole-ridden federal highway, said life and business have been so good these past few weeks.
“I wish the airport remained closed for 10 years” says Ibrahim Abdullahi with a smile as he shares his booming honey sales story with our correspondent at Gidan Buza in Kachia local government area of Kaduna State.
Indeed it has been a good time for brisk business for traders who display their goods on the Kaduna-Abuja end of the expressway. While their peers on the Abuja-Kaduna axis are not lucky due to factors far beyond their control because the passengers heading from Abuja to Kaduna Airport are always in a hurry to catch their flights hence, no time for sight-seeing let alone buying or exploring what the countryside has to offer in terms of produce and wares.
Abdullahi is lucky, because on the contrary, Abuja bound passengers are hardly in hurry to get home, and there are no longer a flight to miss; a big advantage that afforded the local traders in the Kaduna end, a boom in their various businesses.
As our correspondent set out for the 162km Zuba-Kaduna journey, the speeding convoys and the over-zealousness of the various security agencies attached to VIPs heading to Kaduna Airport leaves an impression of a ‘high security risk’ on the highway. This alone got many of the community dwellers worried which they believed had discouraged not a few travellers from patronising them.
However, the few that made a pit stop, ensured no less a boom for the locals especially on market days. The Saturday Dikko Market witnessed a surge in patronage as many of the traders interviewed said, business was never dull.
Mrs Stella Gashon, who deals in local rice from Iddah community along the highway, is elated at the turn of events. “This Abuja people really patronised me, I sell well well”, she told our correspondent.
For her, the airport closure was a blessing. Every Saturday was a huge day, “this six weeks good well for me.” She declined to reveal how much she made from her rice sales. But the smile she beamed told the story of a successful business.
At the tollgate in Gurara local government of Niger State, traders along the Abuja-Kaduna side of the road lamented the speedy vehicular movement, while their counterparts on the Kaduna-Abuja axis were all smiles. Some were forced to relocate to the side where the Abuja-bound travellers occasionally stop by.
Traders at Gujeni in Kagarko local government area of Kaduna State told our correspondent that things have been good for them. “We sold well even though majority of the travellers can only peep through their high security vehicles. I was making about N5, 000 a day before the airport closure, but today I make more than N25, 000 a day selling yams. Abuja people are good buyers,” says Madam Naomi Musa.
Our correspondent spoke to a customer, Mrs Victoria Obiora, who was spotted buying yams and other food items in Gujeni. Obiora said she was attracted to the road side market because of the size of the yams, which according to her, were much bigger than what is found in Abuja markets.
At the Tuesday Iddah Market, the situation was not different from the other markets visited. Traders were seen doing brisk businesses as travellers continue to make a pit stop. Iddah in Kagarko local government area in Kaduna is famous for producing one of the finest local varieties of rice.
Residents say Iddah Rice attracts buyers from all over the country because of its unique taste. Mr Nduka Agbo who was on his way to Abuja from the Kaduna International Airport told our correspondent that he bought 100kg of Iddah Rice. According to the Enugu State-born businessman, the “rice is unique and tastes sweet”.
The purchase means big business for Mallam Sule Mamman, an Iddah Rice dealer, who told our correspondent that he has enjoyed good patronage in the last six weeks. “Business has been good, we are happy even though we knew the boom is for a short time”, he said.
At the Sunday Katari Market, located 90km from Abuja in Kagarko LGA of Kaduna State, the presence of SUV’s by the busy market was all a visitor need to grasp the feeling that some high class personalities have arrived.
“The airport closure afforded me to get a feeling of our rural areas, the market is friendly and the people are quite nice,” says a traveller who wouldn’t mention his name but told our correspondent he was returning from a far country via the Kaduna airport.
Shop owners and other traders confided in our correspondent that the increase in traffic actually affected them positively. “Most of us had better sales this past few weeks, if you make N50, 000 extra on your goods, is that not a good market,” Bulus Magaji, a trader said.
When our correspondent got to Gidan Buza, famous for locally produced honey, sellers did not hide their feelings as they all celebrated the business windfall.
“In spite of the negative reports on the Abuja-Kaduna Road, some travellers have been able to make us smile, we have been having a boom in sales. I sold over N10, 000 worth of honey yesterday as against the N2, 000 I am used to”, honey trader, Umar Dan Ali said.
Our correspondent observed that the biggest gainers on the busy road are traders around the Old Tollgate after Sabon Gaya in Chikun LGA of Kaduna State.
The area hosts two big mosques, where Jummah prayers are held every Friday and is a favourable spot for travellers. It hosts several shops where variety of goods and foods are sold to travellers.
Shop owners told our correspondent that they have been smiling to the bank due the increase of visitors to the place.
According to Muktar Ali, the closure means extra cash for all the traders as many travellers troop to the place. “As they come to observe prayers, they buy goods, eat food and do other things that bring in money for us. I cannot deny the fact that we are experiencing a boom in our businesses, there is no trader here that has not benefited from the airport closure,” Ali said. He added that on Fridays, they have to contend with the large crowd that often converge on the place for the Jummah prayers. Indeed, the toll gate area is fast becoming a city of its own.
Fuel stations and mechanics also enjoy increased patronage. A filling station manager at the Kakau area ,near Kaduna told our correspondent that his station witnessed an increase in the number of vehicles coming to refuel. “This station has seen more cars coming for fuel and this has been like that after the closure of Abuja Airport. A convoy recently refuelled here and spent over N150, 000 that is huge for us. We have others who spend over N50, 000 buying fuel alone. The market has been good even though we know sales will soon return to normal,” he said.
Mechanics and vulcanizers are not left out in the boom. Suleiman Abu, an auto mechanic at Katari said he fixed more number of cars heading for Abuja in recent time. According to him, it is normal to see more broken down vehicles in situation of high traffic. “I have fixed more cars in the last four weeks than ever. It is all about the increased vehicular movement along the highway”, he added.
All the traders have it at the back of their minds that as soon as the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja is reopen for air traffick, they have to settle down for less. But most of them indeed maximised the business moments to the fullest.