ADEKUNLE ALABI, who was part of the media tour of the MKO Abiola International Airport recently reports that the project has every reason to be a gateway to Osun’s fortunes. He writes:
In the Aviation industry at least in Nigeria, Captain Dele Ore flaunts a dossier that is enviable. His profile makes him a voice to be heeded when it comes to that sector. Ore, the Director and Training Coordinator of the Aero Consult and Dele Ore Associates Partnership, graduated from the British Air University (AST), Perth Scotland, Oxford Air Training School, Mannin University, U.K., and the University of Lagos.
Interestingly, he had landed a plane before on the same airstrip located in the same place where the MKO Abiola International Airport is being constructed.
That the State of Osun is building an airport is longer news; what will be the news is the type of airport and the unique features the airport is going to have when fully completed.
And how does the completion of the project also answer the question: What does the state need an airport for?
The airport project by the Rauf Aregbesola administration brings up arguments among some watchers of events. While some are in support of the idea, others have queried the decision alleging that the project is an unviable one especially in the face of many pressing demands by the people of the state.
Contrary to insinuations by the opposition cynics against the Aregbesola government, aviation professional, Ore, believes opening of airports in some states of the federation would open them up to investors, thereby catalyzing their economies for greater opportunities.
That goes for the MKO Abiola International Airport in Osun.
The Osun airport named after the winner of the most peaceful and popular June 12 election in Nigeria, Chief Moshood Abiola, is located in Ido-Osun, Egbedore Local Government Area of the state. When completed, it promises to be a cargo and aircraft maintenance hub in addition to the traditional passengers airlifting.
The airport will be the first to have hanger for the maintenance of different types of aircrafts and helicopters in the West Africa sub-region.
According to Ore, every airport could be viable in-as-much it is handled by private companies with government providing an enabling environment for such companies to succeed.
Captain Ore had once said provision of airports in the states would create jobs for the locals and open up such states for investors.
He had noted that airport projects seem not attractive to some people because the scope of control and ownership have been limited to governments, saying airports are only not efficient if totally left to government to run.
According to him, “It may not be economically viable, but yet politically expedient and very viable for that reason. We have 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory; you can see that agitation would be for at least 36 airports in this country,” he said
Confirming the claims of Governor Aregbesola that the airport in Ido-Osun has historical relevance in West Africa, Captain Ore had reminded Nigerians of the existence of the Ido-Osun airstrip that has been there as early as 1936.
He said, “That is a potential site for an airport already, in which case you are not going to start acquiring lands, evacuating and paying compensations.
Aregbesola, in the wake of the criticisms against the airport project, described people who condemn the project as unnecessary as speaking from the position of ignorance; holding on to the historical relevance of it as the very location that served as the first landing strip in the whole of West Africa.
Perhaps, what had remained unknown to many of the critics of the Aregbesola administration is the fact that the MKO Abiola International Airport is not originally a brainchild of his administration. Little wonder some are quick to condemn it as unnecessary in the face of the prevailing national economic gloom.
The project started with the Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola administration before his exit in 2010.
The administration of Oyinlola commenced the project with the acquisition of more land around the Ido-Osun airstrip built in 1936.
The survey work, the design and tender documents had been forwarded to the Federal Ministry of Aviation, prior to award of contracts in 2010.
Under Oyinlola, the contract sum was reviewed from the initial N3,967,085,161.38 to N7, 512,615,918.06 taking into consideration the change in orientation and extended scope of work in the same year, 2010.
“Aregbesola should be commended by all for his maturity and vision by continuing with the project,” said Engr. Wemimo Adebajo, now the consultant to the state government on the project.
Not quite long that Aregbesola was sworn in as governor, a new, broader and more economically viable option occurred to him. To make the airport serve as a maintenance hub would only be adding to the very few hangers that exist in Africa; but creating bigger opportunities for the state in terms of revenues.
“We are hoping that this would serve to open our area to the international community. The idea of a hanger for maintenance appears exciting and that is why we encourage the governor to proceed and ensure this project is completed,” said Hon Abiodun Awolola, member House of Assembly of Osun representing Egbedore State Constituency.
“Rather than fly to America or Europe, why not take your aircraft to Osun and service them there?” said Awolola.
Most Aviation analysts would see something of an advantage in the airport project. With the former colonial masters citing the aerodrome in Osun, all the state need do to attract that business is to develop the facility that Osun already has.
And already, the state said it has signed agreements with two hanger operators knowing that aircraft maintenance business is a money spinning investment.
Against the background of opposition’s recent criticisms of the MKO Abiola International Airport, the Consultant Engr. Adebajo in collaboration with the Bureau of Communication and Strategy had to embark on a site progress assessment tour with journalists.
At the construction site, Adebajo was optimistic that the airport, when completed, will rank among airports with the longest runways in Nigeria.
The Consultant, speaking on the percentage of work done already, noted that government, having spent N2.7 billion out of the revised total cost of N11billion for the project, work could be said to have reached 25 percent.
He told journalists that the tour of the facilities became germane to allow journalists to be adequately informed about the magnitude of the work done in order to situate the criticisms of the opposition in their proper contexts.
According to the Consultant, the runway of the airport waiting to be laid with 500 mm asphalt is 3.5 kilometers in length, 12.3 meters excavation and re-filling with laterite. Both sides of the runway are to be equipped with water pipes which will be the first of its kind in Nigeria.
He explained that with such a feature, the airport will have been equipped with facilities that will make emergency fire fighting readily available near the runway in case of any emergency landing or fire outbreaks.
If anything suggests that the most critical aspect of the project is nearing an advanced state, it is the fact that in its present condition, the runway can be used for emergency landing by any aircraft in distress.
Adebajo also added that the Control Tower nearing completion is at the third floor of four sitting on a foundation of an excavated ground of nine meters.
“The runway is going to take about 60 percent of the cost of any airport project. A lot of work has been done on the runway, there are about 8 streams in the path of the runway. It therefore became necessary to excavate and build box covets so that the water in the stream will flow unhindered under the runway.”
“Still more to be done, I believe the airport is good for the state. The main delay right now is a question of funding and the state is seeking ways on how to make it available.
“We are approaching the Federal Government for 50 percent of cost of building the airport which is Federal Government’s policy, right now.” The Airport Consultant told journalists.
He explained that the essence of the facility tour with journalists was to allow people know what the state is doing at the airport and the extent of the work already done.
“I think the state government is trying to make sure that the press, the people of the state and Nigeria as a whole are briefed on what they have actually been doing. If it was just to respond to some political allegations, you will be talking to a politician, not a technocrat like myself.
“I have actually read in the newspapers that the contract has been inflated to N15.5billion which is not true. I have just told you it is N11billion and if you compare this with every other airports in Nigeria, you will realise that the cost of this one is cheap”.
For the residents of Ido Osun, who are very close to the project, the project raises some hopes of a coming fortune. Mr. Adedimeji Usman, a farmer and property owner along the Ido Osun-Ede Road, “We see in this project something that will change our lives.”
Having lived in the vicinity of the airport when the project was first conceived, he had prayed fervently that it would come to fruition in his lifetime.
“I have no doubt this place won’t be the same again when completed. And I think Osun too won’t be the same if this airport becomes a reality,” he enthused