Saturday, July 20, 2024


Governor Otti and his team with the visiting Federal Ministry of Aviation team.

A Federal Government team from the Ministry of Aviation has visited Abia State to inspect a proposed site for a new airport planned for the State.

This comes as Abia State Governor, Dr. Alex Otti, OFR, has declared that one of Nigeria’s leading financial institutions, Access Bank, has expressed willingness to partner with the State Government in developing the airport project.

Led by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Aviation, Dr. Emmanuel Meribeole, the Federal Government team said that it was in the state to ensure that the land and location approved for the project are in alignment with regulatory requirement for the siting of an airport.

Dr. Meribeole said the Federal Government is desirous of delivering the airport in record time, hence the visit by the team made up of representatives of all the various aviation agencies responsible for approvals and supervision of airports in the country to meet required standards.

Aviation agencies in the team included the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET), Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), and Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA).

Meribeole, while acknowledging the visionary leadership of Governor Otti, said members of his team are experts in their various agencies and that the Abia airport project has already been captured in the 2024 Federal Appropriation Act, but as an airstrip.

He stated the fact that airport projects are capital intensive, adding however that the advantage of having an airport cannot be overemphasised as it would lead to the accelerated development of the state through job creation, promotion of commerce, revenue generation, among others.

Governor Otti, who warmly received the Federal aviation team, thanked President Bola Tinubu for approving the development of an airstrip for Abia.

He said even though the national budget made provision for an airstrip, Abia State Government would work with the Federal Government to upscale the airstrip to a full-fledged airport, as the major difference between an airport and airstrip is the length and size of the runway.

“First of all, I will like to thank the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR, for consenting to setting up an airstrip in Abia and for also including it in 2024 budget as approved.

“Even if the money there may not complete it, but a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. So, we are grateful to him.

“We also want to say a big thanks to my friend and brother, the Honourable Minister of Aviation, Barr. Festus Kyamo, SAN, for all what he’s been doing to ensure that this becomes a reality. We are always on the line discussing, coming up with ideas on how to fast track this.

“I want to thank you for also joining us to be in a hurry to deliver this project. Once we had agreed, we started looking for a suitable land because that is the most important in an airport. There were a few places that were mapped out earlier, but when we went on physical inspection, we found out that some of those places do not have enough space or are not properly located for the airport.

“One other important thing about airport is location, so we now zeroed in on the place that you are looking at, at the moment. We didn’t just identify that location, we went the extra mile of identifying the owners of the land because it is a huge parcel of land. We had already started engaging with them,” Governor Otti stated.

The Governor assured the team of the State Government’s preparedness to see to the actualisation of the project in record time, as the people of Abia are in a hurry to have an airport of their own, being one of the two states remaining in Nigeria without an airport. The other is Osun State.

“One thing you can take away from here is that the State will actually be leading, and if anything gets delayed, it’s because it is coming from the center; but for us, we are in a hurry.

“I’m personally on this, and I get briefing on a daily bases and any day I don’t get briefing, I check on them, like, where are we on this?

“So, this is to assure you that we are more than ready and that everything that you require, you will receive on record time. And, we hope that at least in the next one year, an airport would be standing. Once we have the runway and have the terminal building, the rest will come from time to time,” he assured.

The Federal aviation team’s visit coincided with that of Access Bank, led by the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Roosevelt Ogbonna.

Governor Otti expressed the willingness of Access Bank to participate and partner with Abia State Government in the airport project “to ensure that liquidity does not become a problem”.

According to Governor Otti, Access Bank has some experience in airport project financing, having participated in delivering the Ogun State airport.

“I had suggested to the CEO that the team needs to sit down with him so that we can have them onboard early enough. Our attitude is not to borrow until it becomes absolutely necessary. If they had also got involved in one and delivered it then we can learn from the mistakes they made in those ones and then build on the good things that we can pick up,” the Governor said.




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