Most State Airports are White Elephant Projects, Says Senate

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Deji Elumoye and Udora Orizu in Abuja

The Senate on Friday described most airports established by state governments as white elephant projects.

Chairman of Senate Committee on Aviation, Senator Smart Adeyemi, who stated this during presentation of reports on the 2022 budgetary projections for the Aviation sector before the Senate Committee on Appropriations, said functional airstrips are better operational in most States than airports being established.

He informed the committee that eight of the airstrips built about 40 to 50 years ago, have been proposed for rehabilitation in the 2022 fiscal year.

The ranking Senator listed the air strips to include Bida and Kotangora in Niger State , Mubi in Adamawa State, Zairia in Kaduna State, Uli – Okija in Anambra State , Ajaokuta in Kogi State, Irua in Edo State and Zuru in Kebbi State.

He added that in many nations of the world that he has visited, whether an airport is having a terminal of N10 billion or N20 billion does not matter what matters is that it must have a good landing facility which a functional Airstrip can provide.

Adeyemi said, “Most of Airports built by the Senate lacks the required facilities and passengers flow to be called Airports. Aside Lagos which has 65 % of passengers traffic , Abuja , Port Harcourt , Kano , most of the other State Airports lack the required 500,000 to 1million passenger traffic on yearly basis. Infact , many of them cannot even record 100,000 passengers annually not to talk of minimum of 500, 000 by international standard. Governors should stop embarking on the white Elephant Projects called State Airport with attendant waste of resources that should be channeled into welfare and livelihood of citizens. N20 billion being spent by some state governors on construction of Airports would have been better channeled into welfare – driven projects and programmes for people of the State.

”It takes one to two billion Naira to contract a functional Airstrip where small Aircrafts like 50 – seaters can land. We don’t need a Boeing series that would be looking for 100 passengers to take off before it move. If we have a 50-seater aircraft, it could land and pick 30 passengers at no loss. But if if you are waiting for a Boeing series before you construct airport, you are not helping the Nigerian nation. We should not be looking at aviation from the level of America. We have to graduate and the way to do it is to have airstrip in place. We have therefore proposed Okija airstrip, Zuru , Zaria , Ajaokuta , Mubi, Kotangora ,Bida and Urua airstrips for rehabilitation.

“The Uli-Okija airstrip in particular, is good because it will open up the Nnewi Anambra axis and the entire South-East more when we have an aircraft that could take about 50 passengers to take off and land, to the hinterland. They are needed because they service the hinterland. It would enable them to move goods and passengers around the country easily. That is the basic thing to help guarantee the social and economic development of our nation”.