Senate panel chiefs disagree on benefits of proliferation of airports
The Chairmen of the Senate Committees on Appropriation and Aviation, Senators Barau Jibrin and Smart Adeyemi have disagreed over the benefits derivable from the proliferation of airports in Nigeria.
Adeyemi (APC Kogi West), who spoke while defending the Ministry of Aviation 2022 budget before the Barau-led Appropriation committee, described most of the airports established by state governments as white elephant projects.
He contended that it made economic sense for states to build functional airstrips than expend as high as N20b on the construction of airports that are of little impact to citizens’ wellbeing.
The Kogi-born lawmaker disclosed that eight of the airstrips built about 40 to 50 years ago have been proposed for rehabilitation in the 2022 fiscal year.
He listed the eight airstrips 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 said: “Most of the airports built by the Senate lack the required facilities and passenger flow to be called airports.
“Aside Lagos, which has 65 per cent passengers traffic, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kano and most of the other state airports lack the required 500,000 to one million-passenger traffic on yearly basis.
“In fact, many of them cannot even record 100, 000 passengers yearly, not to talk of minimum of 500, 000 by international standard.
“Governors should stop embarking on white elephant projects called state airports, with attendant waste of resources that should be channeled into citizens’ welfare.”
He added that in many nations of the world, whether an airport is having a terminal of N10b or N20b does not matter. What matters is that it must have a good landing facility, which a functional airstrip can provide.
But Barau (APC Kano), who disagreed with Adeyemi, said state governments deserve to be commended for embarking on the construction of airports in their domains.
Referring to neighbouring Niger Republic with less traffic flow in their airports, he said emphasis should be on attracting private sector partnership in the management of state-owned airports, as is the case with that of Heathrow Airport in the United Kingdom.
Senator Stella Oduah (PDP Anambra), who also faulted Adeyemi’s claim that N20b is required to build an airport, aligned with Barau’s position on the need for private sector involvement in the aviation sector, in tandem with international best practices.
Oduah, who is the vice chairperson of the Appropriation committee, contended that existing airports in the country are not enough to serve the over 200 million Nigerians.
“The global best practices are the way to go. When time is saved, money is saved, if you have functional airports for Nigerians to move freely. The aviation sector remains the catalyst for social and economic growth…”