Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom has said that the state government will not make any financial contribution to the N28billion cargo airport he plans to build in the state.
Ortom, who spoke with State House Correspondents in Abuja after the National Economic Council meeting, said the project would be exclusively financed by the private sector.
The governor described the project was a manna from heaven.
He said: “The cargo airport is purely a private initiative by a consortium, Benue state government is not going to pay one naira. How can I go and construct an airport when I can’t pay salaries as at when due? There is no need for that.”
He said the airport would be a hub for the entire West Africa for carrying cargo especially agricultural produce to other parts of the world.
He said: “This consortium has arranged a funding of this project and because we are providing the enabling environment and providing land, they offering the state governments 15 per cent equity. But the 15 per cent equity contribution has been arranged by this same consortium, government is not paying N1. The payment will only come when the project is completed and out of our diligence, we will pay back within a secured period. And the concessional agreement is for 25 years. We shall renegotiate.”
He said those expressing reservations about the project were doing so out of ignorance or mischief.
The governor said the N28 billion was not just going to be for cargo airport but would provide a chain of projects that would promote the economy of the state.
He said: “There is going to be housing estate, road construction, dualisation of the road from Lafia to Makurdi to Otupko and Ninth Mile, there is going to be training school and several other things that would support the airport. Of course there is going to be industries that would be processing our primary products whether finished or semi finished products as the case.”
On the fears being raised that the consortium was a new one and lacked experiemce, Ortum said, “Wll I wouldn’t know about that. All I know like that man in the Bible said, I was blind but now I can see. All I want is people who can come and make things work for me in the absence of we not having the funding.
“So they have made the funding available, they have already provided N5.7 billion which is right now in the account and they are ready to do the work. So they are waiting for the Chinese EXIM Bank to pay their own 85 per cent. Why should I be concerned with whether it is a new company or not?
“I know that a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. So whether is a new company or not I am concerned that the project should work. So far I’m not disappointed. We have done the groundbreaking and once the technical issues are resolved we shall also do the foundation laying.”