Dignitaries travelling to Bayelsa State may no longer suffer the ‘discomfort’ of travelling to Port Harcourt airport and then charter (military) helicopters to the state as the state government has paid a N2.5 billion mobilisation fee for the construction of an airstrip.
An airstrip is defined as a “place for aircraft to take off and land that has no facilities and is often temporary,” according to Encarta dictionary.
The airstrip is different from the international airport the Federal Government plans to construct in the state. It will, however, serve as a landing place for aircrafts, largely non-commercial airlines, transporting dignitaries.
A military helicopter carrying six occupants, including the late Kaduna State Governor, Patrick Yakowa, and the former National Security Adviser, Andrew Azazi, crashed recently in Bayelsa while transporting the dignitaries to Port Harcourt airport. All the occupants died, and the cause of the crash is yet to be discovered.
The dignitaries were part of the many that graced the burial of the father of a presidential aide, Oronto Douglas.
Bayelsa is one of the many states that currently have no airport.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that many dignitaries that went for Mr. Azazi’s burial over the weekend refused to fly in helicopters preferring to travel by road to Yenagoa from Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
Some also refused to go by boat, from Port Harcourt to Bayelsa, for fear of kidnap or hijack by militants, an attendee said.
It is not clear how much the recent occurrences influenced Governor Seriake Dickson’s decision to hurriedly make payment for the airstrip.
Dickson said the project, which is situated along the Amassoma, Ogobiri and Egbedi axis, is expected to be completed within one year, adding that clearing of the site had since commenced.
He presented a cheque of N2.5 billion as mobilisation fee for the airstrip on Monday in Yenagoa, the state capital. The construction contract is being handled by Dantata and Sawoe Plc.
He also presented a cheque of N3 billion as mobilisation for the Sagbama-Ekeremor road, also being handled by the same company.
A cheque of N3 billion was presented to the Chinese Civil Engineering and Construction Company (CCCEC) as mobilisation fee for the Oporoma-Yenagoa road; bringing the total to N8.5 billion.
While presenting the cheques, Mr. Dickson disclosed that adequate funds have been earmarked for the various projects and charged the contractors to ensure timely completion.
On the Nembe-Brass road, the governor said the project would be awarded in early 2013, as new designs had been developed raising the road as high as seven metres in view of recent floods that ravaged infrastructure in the state.
According to him, both the Nembe-Brass and Sagbama-Ekeremor roads would be executed at the cost of N90 billion.
In their responses, representative of the Dantata group, Hamza Nasco, and the Project Manager of CCEC, Gillio Costa, commended Mr. Dickson for his commitment to the development of the state.
They both assured the government and people of the state that they would deliver the projects on schedule according to the expectation of government.