In this feature, ANOZIE EGOLE looks at the craze for building new airports by Nigerian states’ governors and the need for such huge capital-intensive projects
The recent commissioning of Anambra Cargo Airport by the Governor Willie Obiano-led administration seems to have panned the searchlight to the desire for the construction of airports by some state governors in the country.
Despite that some of the governors default in the statutory payment of salaries and other entitlements to workers, they seem to be determined to construct an airport, though there may not be any significant impact of the project on the states, especially on the economic side.
Poor air traffic
Air traffic in Nigeria is relatively poor, even before the outbreak of the Coronaviris Disease, which grounded human activities the world over. Statistics show that between year 2010 and 2016, there has been continuous dwindling of air passengers traffic in the country, with Edo State recording 126,354 passengers in 2015 against the 224,564 recorded in 2014. Also, in Oyo State, passenger traffic has never gone beyond 69,797 between year 2010 to 2016. Anambra, Lagos and Delta states to be the states with average prices in March 2021.
Financial Street checks gathered that since the commissioning of the Anambra Cargo Airport in April 2021, with the test running by Air Peace, no single airline has landed in the multibillion naira airport.
Good idea, but…
But is the development what Nigerians need amid the poor passenger traffic and dwindling economic fortune of majority of the citizens?
Reacting to the development, an air passenger, who simply gave his name as Odion Omoregie, described the idea by the state governor as laudable, adding, however, that there were so many other places the money could have been channelled to.
“There is nothing wrong if the state governor chooses to build an airport for the state, but my concern is that there are so many other places these monies could be channelled to. Like looking at the area of school infrastructure and salaries for teachers, I think these areas, though not doing badly, could be improved on.”
Another air passenger, identified as Chioma Cynthia, told Financial Street that there was no need for new airports, adding that the ones available should be properly taken care of.
Her words, “There is no need to get an airport while some of the ones available are not properly maintained. The governors should work more on maintaining the ones we have, while the money for the new one can be used for something else like housing.”
Unfortunately, some Nigerians see the award of the airports contract as a drainpiy by the governor’s to milk the public till.
An air engineer, who doesn’t want his name in print, accused the state governors of hiding under airport construction to embezzle public funds.
He said, “Some of them are using that project as a means of embezzling public funds. Look at the one commissioned in Anambra in April, how many aircraft have landed there since then. Do you know how how much they spent just to commission that structure alone? So, to me, some of these things are for the sake of embezzling funds and let it sound like the government in power did something.”
Meanwhile, an economist, Mrs Peace Maduabuchi, argued that there was always an economic advantage of having an airport in a state, especially when properly managed.
Other proposed airports
The New Ekiti Airport is a proposed development serving the city of Ado-Ekiti in Ekiti State. The project was initially rejected by the Nigerian government, with the excuse that it would conflict with plans to upgrade four airports to international standards. In 2015, then Governor Ayodele Fayose revisited the project, announcing plans to establish an airport for the state and commissioned the Lands and Housing Directorate to start a survey for an appropriate site. commenced on October 18, 2019.
There are other proposed airports across Nigeria, to be built with taxpayers’ funds or loans. Nigeria had sought a $500m loan from China to help pay for four international airport terminals and a railway.
How these projects will benefit the citizens hangs in the balance of time.
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