I have been traveling across the the northern parts of the country in the last few days from Abuja to Lafia (Nasarawa state) to Gboko (Benue state) to Kaduna and back to Abuja. I was complaining to a friend about the need for a better and faster means of transportation across different parts of the country instead of wasting precious time and lives on our terrible roads.
He empathized with me and went on to mention that Benue state government is considering building an airport and we began arguing about the justification for building such an infrastructure in Benue or whether that should be the focus of Gov. Ortom considering Benue’s lean resources.
As if the the sender heard us arguing, I opened my WhatsApp and received the report that Osun State Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, “has said he deserves commendation for building the Moshood Abiola International Airport at Ido-Osun, Osun State”. Read more here. Then I decided to look at other states where the governors have built or are contemplating building airports.
Gov. Ayo Fayose has started works on the proposed new airport in Ekiti State. His counterpart in Nasarrawa state, Gov. Tanko Al-Makura is also planning to build a cargo airport of N20bn in Lafia, the state capital.
My first reaction is why does he need to build an airport in Lafia when Abuja which is just 2 hours drive away has a functional airport? Why is Gov. Fayose not looking for how to derive more benefits from the airport in Akure, the neighbouring state, instead of constructing a brand new airport?
Gov Al-Makura can argue that he is building a cargo airport to help move the goods and agricultural produce from his state to other parts of the country or for export but I do not think that is an efficient use of funds considering Nassarawa’s proximity to Abuja. Why not build better roads to facilitate movement of goods to Abuja airport? The same question can be asked of Ogbeni Aregbesola in Osun and Fayose in Ekiti. What is the economic benefit of building airports in Ido-Osun or Afao-Ekiti with airports in Ibadan and Akure?
To an extent I can understand the reason Gov. Ortom is considering building an airport in Benue state because no serious investor will put his/her life through the risk of travelling six hours from Abuja, Kaduna or Enugu where the closest functional airports are located thereby making access to the potentials in the landlocked Middle Belt areas more difficult. However, I disagree with the rumored location being Markurdi. Instead, I would have thought the state government will be looking at Kastina-Ala axis to situate the airport and it must be mainly a cargo airport not just for passengers only.
A report, in 2013, identified some designated locations where perishable cargo airports are to be situated across the country to “help transform the aviation industry into a major revenue earner”. Although, I agree to a very large extent with the locations believing that the cities mentioned are the capital of the states where the airports are to be situated and not necessarily the specific locations for the airports. However, there is also a need to include some areas like Edo/Delta axis and Kaduna on that list for obvious reasons.
Also, we cannot just be building airports without thinking of its integration with other means of transportation such as rail, road etc to facilitate the supply side of goods/agricultural produce to be transported. What is the use of a cargo or passenger airport that is not easily accessible to people or cargo?
This report gives an idea of profitability of some existing airports. If this is the kind of net revenue an airport generates should we even be considering building new ones instead of upgrading existing ones to serve our needs? Some reports even showed that promised cargo airport in Zamfara state did not even take off. See here, here and here.
Instead of our governors building airports over the places shouldn’t they be collaborating with the Federal Ministry of Transportation & Aviation in developing start-of-the-art, 21st century Cargo Terminals in our existing airports as well as upgrading the existing rail way services to meet our current needs? The concentration of the state governors should be on building new roads and/or upgrading the existing ones to link other means of transportation in order to enhance the economic activities of their people.
To be continued…