By Seyi Bakare
Last week, a major paradigm shift in the socioeconomic development of Ogun State was hallmarked by the pronouncement by Governor Dapo Abiodun assuring the people of the state that the first phase of the Agro-Cargo Airport at Ilisan-Remo in Ikenne LGA of the state would be ready by May next year. Governor Abiodun, who gave this pledge while undertaking an on-the-spot assessment of work done on the 2.3km access road to the cargo airport, hinged the project on the plan of his administration to have a cargo airport that fully complements the agric value chain investments in the state. The project, he observed, was conceived in 2007 and had all necessary approvals, including the Environmental Impact Assessment from the aviation regulatory body, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). His administration, he noted, had designated the cargo airport a heteropolis (complete airport city) because it would have a special agro-processing zone, with factories where raw materials could be turned into final products for export, and would in fact be complemented with the first international testing centre where goods would be evaluated for export.
He said: “We bid for the African Development Bank’s special agro-processing zone and in that bid document, we chose this location to co-locate the special agro-processing zone here. The AFROEXIM Bank has begun the construction of the first African International Testing Centre here in Sagamu; that is, a centre where items for export would be evaluated and approved for export, so a cargo airport here is just very convenient and economically wise,” he said.
The foregoing indeed throws up some salient issues worthy of note. First, in trying to actualize the construction of the cargo airport project conceptualized by the Gbenga Daniel administration in 2007, Governor Abiodun and his crew are drawing attention to the vital need to shelve the discontinuity politics that has hobbled development in the country for ages, the practice of abandoning uncompleted projects by previous administrations for narrow, partisan reasons, the fact that governance is and ought to be a continuum, and the fact that a responsible administration should place premium on value for money. It is manifestly clear that the proposed cargo airport is a project designed to lift Ogun State’s agriculture and business potentialities to a phenomenal level; a giant leap for an administration seeking to harness the Gateway State’s full economic potential and turn around the fortunes of millions. And this is certainly worthy of applause. That the project will open a vista of opportunities is a given. Industries will spring up as soon as the airport commences operations. And, what is more, it is strategically located to reach commodities across the state and parts of the South-West. In any case, Lagos, Nigeria’s economic capital, will also take advantage of the airport because it has no such facility; it has only passenger airports.
Governor Abiodun, speaking recently when he received the Senate Committee on Aviation, led by Senator Smart Adeyemi, at the Exco Chamber of the Governor’s Office, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, placed the extant issues in perspective. According to him, the agro-cargo airport project conceptualized by the Daniel administration in 2007 has lots of potential for the overall development of Ogun and the country in general. As he reiterated, Ogun State is yearning for an airport that will support its massive agricultural potential. Governor Abiodun could certainly not be faulted in insisting that the Ogun populace entrusted his administration with qualitative representation to create an enabling environment for public/private sector partnership, which is fundamental to the creation of enduring economic development. In any case, the decision to continue with the agro-airport project, located in Ogun East Senatorial District, was made by the state’s joint inter-ministerial committee. It is heartening that a lot of verifiable work had started on the agro-cargo airport project, which has the imprimatur of the Federal Ministry of Transportation and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
Governor Abiodun articulated the issue very pungently: “This administration is deliberate and methodical. After a thorough evaluation, the choice of the Airport cargo location in Ilisan was unanimous. It complements the agric/processing factories ecosystem in that corridor with access/egress road network. To that extent, our decisions are guided by the principles of good governance; is it fair, just and equitable to all? Is the process transparent and inclusive? Did the people input? Is it of economic important/value? Will it possibly impact the life of our people? As we must hold ourselves accountable at all times. After all, the people are the essence of governance and we are only holding the office in trust for them.”
The point has been made that the cargo airport project has been the missing link in Ogun State’s development over the years, the final part of the jigsaw puzzle that would successfully harness all the state government’s investments. It will, among others, provide efficient and effective connectivity for international, regional and local cargo and scheduled air traffic, especially to the southern part of Nigeria and the West African cluster. It will complement Ogun’s status as the foremost industrial hub in the country while optimising the logistics and distribution value chain, thereby improving competitiveness and enabling the state to take full advantage of AfCTA for economic growth and development.
Located within an aerotropolis with a land allocation of c.5,000 hectares comprising facilities for commerce, industry, cargo handling and logistics, it is projected to consolidates Ogun State’s competitive advantage in the agriculture/ agro-allied and manufacturing industries. Having already received regulatory approvals in 2008 from both the Federal Ministry of Transportation and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), it would facilitate real estate developments, fully integrated through shared infrastructure and services for synergy and value chain benefits.
As noted by a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ogun State, Mr ‘Tope Armstrong Akintunde, it is significant that in the face of the dwindling fortunes of revenue from oil, Governor Abiodun has deemed it fit to build a strong economic base for Ogun State through the resuscitation of the Agro-Cargo Airport project as well as the massive investment in agriculture and infrastructure. According to him, “It’s a project with huge potentials to redefine positively the socio-economic dynamics of the state. It will create jobs in their thousands, open up the state for more investment, increase revenue generation for the state, boosts the agricultural sector and ultimately enhance the economic prosperity of the residents of the state.”
The importance of the cargo airport indeed lies in its utilitarian value as a catalyst for economic growth and development. It is a brilliant initiative deserving of utmost support, and must be brought to fruition.
• Bakare sent this piece from Plot 232, Ibadan Road, Abeokuta, Ogun State