The senate has described most of the airport projects by executed by state governments as “white elephant” projects.
Speaking yesterday after submitting his 2022 appropriation bill report, the chairman, senate committee on aviation, Senator Smart Adeyemi, said functional airstrips were better operational in most of the states than airports of N20 billion projects being embarked upon.
He told the committee that eight of the airstrips built about 40 to 50 years ago had been proposed for rehabilitation in the 2022 fiscal year.
The eight airstrips according to him are; 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 added; “Aside Lagos which has 65 % of passenger traffic, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kano, 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 annually not to talk of a minimum of 500, 000 by international standard.
“Governors should stop embarking on the white elephant projects called state airports with attendant waste of resources that should be channeled into welfare and livelihood of citizens.
“N20 billion being spent by some state governors on construction of airports would have been better channeled into welfare driven projects and programmes for people of the state. It takes one to two billion naira to contract a functional airstrip where small aircraft like 50 seaters can land.”
He added that in many nations of the world that he had visited, whether an airport has a terminal of N10bn or N20bn does not matter. What matters he said is that it must have a good landing facility which a functional airstrip can provide.
“We don’t need a Boeing series that would be looking for 100 passengers to take off. If we have a 50-seater aircraft, it could land and pick 30 passengers at no loss. But if you are waiting for a Boeing series before you construct an airport, you are not helping the Nigerian nation.
“We should not be looking at aviation from the level of America. We have to graduate and the way to do it is to have airstrips in place.
“We have therefore proposed Okija airstrip, Zuru, Zaria, Ajaokuta , Mubi, Kotangora ,Bida and Urua airstrips for rehabilitation.
“The Uli-Okija airstrip in particular is good because it will open up the Nnewi Anambra axis and the entire South-East more when we have an aircraft that could take about 50 passengers to take off and land, to the hinterland.
“They are needed because they service the hinterland. It would enable them to move goods and passengers around the country easily. That is the basic thing to help guarantee the social and economic development of our nation,” he added.