Governor of the State of Osun, Governor Rauf Aregbesola, on yesterday in Lagos said he had signed two contracts for an aircraft maintenance hanger with private sector operators in the state, as part of efforts to further diversify its economy and save the nation huge amounts in foreign exchange spent annually by operators in the aviation sector.
Amount spent on aircraft maintenance abroad for the country’s 10 domestic airlines is estimated at about N50 billion yearly for ‘Checks A to D,’ with ‘A’ and ‘B’ checks being lighter, while ‘C’ and ‘D’ encompasses complete overhaul.
According to aviation experts, an aircraft goes for ‘C’ Check every 15 to 18 months, at the cost of between $1 million and $2 million, depending on the type.
The ‘D’ Check for the Boeing 737- 300, 737-400 and 737-500, is conducted after 24,000-flight hours, while the Boeing 747-400 requires a ‘D’ Check after 28,000-flight hours, and the Airbus A-330-341 goes for routine check after every six years.
In a chat with senior journalists, Aregbesola said the hanger would be constructed over a period of four years.
“Airport is not for passengers alone. Airport is targeted at economic development: Aircraft maintenance (hanger), cargo and passengers. Other things can follow.”
Continuing, the governor noted: “Some people wonder why Osun must have an airport when there is one (neighbouring) Akure (Ondo State) and Ibadan (Oyo State). We went to people who would invest in aircraft maintenance. I have with me now, two contracts already signed to site an aircraft maintenance hub. When I deliver the aircraft, my aircraft will succeed, whether or not there is passenger traffic.”
Governor Aregbesola also wonders: “But must there be an airport before I can set up an aircraft hanger?”
He said the firms to build the hangers are asking already if they can carry the cost of constructing the airport along with that of the hanger, noting that the venture would be profitable, given the fact that there are only two of such maintenance hub in sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa and Ethiopia.
Another reason for enthusiasm, the governor added, is the reality that aircraft maintenance must happen at specified times, just as he wonders why people continue to limit the argument for an airport to passenger traffic alone, instead of looking at the broader perspectives.
He also spoke of discussions with a firm in the Middle East for a cargo section of the airport to supply agric produce from Osun and further broaden the state’s revenue base, as part of efforts to ensure it becomes self sufficient.
Aregbesola stressed the need to restructure Nigeria as it is today, because most of the 36 states are not viable and cannot survive without help from the centre, thereby making them mere appendages, and defeating the essence of the nation’s federalism.
As a result of that, he continued, “It would be a miracle for the roads in Osun to be tarred without help from the Federal Government.”
The governor assured that the state remains resolute in its determination to become an agricultural base and has not abandoned the plan to contribute just 10 per cent of the food consumed in Lagos, the nation’s economic and commercial capital.
So far, he said, his administration has invested N3 billion in the sector and that the bulk of the food for feeding students of public schools in the state have been locally sourced, saying the system has not produced enough for the second leg of the dream of selling farm produce to Lagos.
The greatest problem of agriculture in Nigeria, he also noted, is the failure of government to give incentives that would encourage people to go back to the farm, thereby ensuring self-sustenance in agriculture. One way of achieving such, he believes by government put in place a regime of guaranteed minimum purchase price whereby it becomes the buyer of last resort, ensuring that what ever is produced is not allowed to rot or die because there is no ready buyer.
Aregbesola said his administration, being pro-poor in all its projects is also “giving interest-free credits to micro entrepreneurs,” just as it has so far spent N3.6 billion on the state’s youths’ employment drive and N3.5 billion on feeding school children, a situation that has endeared the ordinary people across the state to his government.