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UPDATE 1-Nigeria postpones investment conference due to Abuja airport closure
February 24, 2017 / 3:50 PM / 6 months ago

UPDATE 1-Nigeria postpones investment conference due to Abuja airport closure

(Adds Ethiopian Airlines to fly to Kaduna)

LAGOS, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Nigeria has postponed for three months a trade conference meant to drum up badly-needed investment due to the temporary closure of its capital's international airport, the organisers said on Friday.

The delay is the first sign that government and business activity will be impacted by the six-week closure of Abuja airport for runway repairs just as Africa's biggest economy grapples with recession.

The airport will close from March 8 and the government had hoped foreign airlines would use the smaller Kaduna airport about 160 km (100 miles) to the north.

So far, however, most international airlines including British Airways, Lufthansa and South African Airways have refused to fly to Kaduna, partly due to security concerns.

Ethiopian Airlines, who confirmed on Friday that it will fly to Kaduna during the Abuja closure, are so far the only foreign airline to say it will use the alternative airport.

The British Foreign Office advises against all but essential travel to Kaduna state in northern Nigeria. Underlining the security risks in the region, two Germans were kidnapped on the main Abuja-Kaduna road this week.

The government imposed a 24-hour curfew on parts of Kaduna state this week after clashes between herdsmen and villagers killed at least 14 in the region.

Organisers of the Nigeria International Trade and Investment Conference said in a statement the event had been pushed back from late March to June 13-15 due to the airport closure.

The conference aims in particular to attract farming investment to boost local food production and reduce the country's dependency on oil exports.

Nigeria's economy has been hammered by a slump in oil revenues that has eroded public finances and forced the central bank to devalue the naira several times. (additional reporting by Aaron Maasho in Addis Ababa; Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Richard Lough and Toby Davis)

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