Emmanuel Addeh and Chinedu Eze in Yenagoa
It was a day of joy in Bayelsa State Thursday as the first airplane marked 5N-BUV, touched down at the newly-built Bayelsa International airport in Amassoma, Southern Ijaw, the heartland of the Ijaw nation.
A second flight operated by Air Peace Airline also landed at the airport, which has a 3.5 – kilometre runway, said to be the longest in the country, where a jubilant crowd eagerly waited to receive Governor Seriake Dickson.
Also accompanying the governor on the flight was his wife, Dr. Rachel Dickson; Deputy Governor, Rear Admiral John Jonah (rtd); Chairman of the state Traditional Rulers Council, King Alfred Diete Spiff, among others.
Speaking at the event, Dickson described the airport as one of the best in the country, noting that it would serve as a free trade zone not only in the Niger Delta but also for the Gulf of Guinea.
He said the airport was executed in fulfillment of his promise of bringing the world to Bayelsa and vice versa.
Dickson said under his leadership he had never played politics with three key issues, namely: development of the state, protection of the interest of the Ijaw nation and security.
Congratulating the people of the state for the great achievement, he berated the federal government for reneging on its promise to construct the terminal building, which his administration also completed.
He took a swipe at critics of the project, particularly the Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri for “spreading falsehood” about the project.
The governor who put the cost of the airport project at about N60 billion, expressed gratitude to the contractor, Dantata and Sawoe and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, (FAAN) for building the airport to meet international standards.
Dickson said the airport was built to improve the economy of the state, adding that it would soon be fully inaugurated for both local and international flights.
The governor said the state government handled the entire project without input from the federal government or the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
Dickson said the report that the state government spent between N120 billion and N150 billion on the project was not true, adding that the facility would be able to accommodate big body aircraft like the Boeing B777 and B747.
Also speaking, the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Daniel Iworisoma, said the airport would create over 2,000 direct and indirect jobs for indigenes of the state.
He described the airport as a Valentine’s Day present to the people of Bayelsa State, stressing that the airport was built strictly for business, especially the oil and gas industry and had no political undertone.
“We must put politics aside for us to have development. This is the first airport in Bayelsa State, to help develop the economy. This airport will serve as a hub for the petroleum industry but we want to also look away from oil and gas and look at other revenue sources, so this is a legacy project,” he said.
The Senator representing Bayelsa East, Ben Bruce, said the airport would ease movement for indigenes of the state and also boost trade and commerce.
Representative of the Managing Director of the FAAN, Mr. Clifford Omozeghian, said the body had already deployed critical personnel to man aviation security, the fire-fighting equipment and rescue operations at the facility.
In his goodwill message, Chairman of the State Traditional Rulers Council, King Diette Spiff, expressed delight over the project, noting that the airport would promote tourism, export and industrial development.