As they prepare their handover notes ahead of May 29, the governors of Lagos, Zamfara, Yobe and Nasarawa states would be handing over multi-billion naira uncompleted airport projects which they had promised to execute within the life span of their administrations. Daily Trust on Sunday reports.
When he was sworn into office for a second term in 2015, Governor Abdulaziz Yari promised to build an airport in Gusau, the capital of Zamfara State the next year. In fact, he assured intending pilgrims in the state that they would be airlifted via the airport.
“Our intending pilgrims will be airlifted from the newly constructed airport to the Holy Land come 2016, Insha Allah,” Yari reportedly said.
To intending pilgrims and many other air passengers from Zamfara State, it was good news as they have had to travel several kilometers to get to neighbouring Sokoto airport to get airlifted outside the state.
Yari also explained that his administration was planning to build a befitting airport to boost commercial activities and provide a good system of transportation in the state.
His pronouncement was greeted with a standing ovation at that time, with many people expressing their delight over the project that could boost the economic fortunes of the people of the state.
But barely 10 days to his exit as governor of Zamfara State, the airport construction promised by his administration remains a mirage. This is in spite of the fact that the project was captured in the state’s 2016 and 2017 appropriations, as checks by Daily Trust on Sunday revealed.
A visit to the location of the proposed airport, about 10 kilometers along Gusau-Kaura Namoda, road showed that there was nothing to suggest that work had commenced on the field.
Our correspondent who visited the site observed that farmers have cleared a large portion of the land, suggesting that rather than planes landing there, crops would be grown on the field in this year’s cropping season.
An official of the state Ministry of Works told Daily Trust on Sunday that the contract for the construction of the said airport was yet to be awarded, and as such, no amount was earmarked for the work.
The idea of a cargo airport construction in the state was earlier conceived by the administration of former Governor Mahmud Aliyu Shinkafi. However, until his defeat by the incumbent Governor Abdulaziz Yari, work was yet to commence on the field.
Investigation revealed that former Governor Shinkafi had awarded the cargo airport contract at the cost of about N9 billion in 2009. About N14 million was paid as consultancy fees for the project while nothing was paid as compensation to the land owners at the site.
Contacted, the special adviser to the governor on public enlightenment, media and communication, Alhaji Ibrahim Dosara, said the issue of airport was temporarily suspended to pave way for the construction of Nigerian Air Force Base because of the security needs of the state.
Similarly, the completion of Damaturu Cargo International Airport project in Yobe State, promised by Governor Ibrahim Gaidam, is yet to see the light of day, even as he prepares his handover notes.
The project, conceived and awarded at the cost of N11, 327,120,487.24 by the State Executive Council on September 13, 2017, was to be completed in 15 months.
Months after the contract was awarded to JM & A’S Limited, its time frame was further extended to May 2019, which is before Governor Gaidam completes his second tenure in office.
The International Cargo Airport was conceived by the state government to facilitate export, boost the state’s internally generated revenue and envisaged to enhance business traffic in the North-East region.
When our correspondent visited the airport project site, located about 25 kilometers from the state capital, Damaturu, the project was ongoing, but at a slow pace.
It was observed that the departure, control tower, mosques and some other buildings were at the roofing stages, while at the runway, compaction has been completed. Gravels and stone dust were tipped at the site.
Workers were also seen in the control tower and departure, plastering and trussing to assemble wrought-iron rafters overhead.
One of the labourers at the control tour, who spoke on condition of anonymity, observed that the speed of work at the airport had reduced drastically, compared to what it used to be months ago.
“The number of labourers and company workers has reduced, which had seriously hampered the work speed,’’ he said.
The permanent secretary, Yobe State Ministry of Works, Transport and Energy, Abdullahi Muhammad Jawa, said the amendments made by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), hampered the airport project from being completed in 2018.
“The airport regulatory body came and made some amendments in the project, taking us almost back to square zero. We have to go back and ensure that all the specifications observed by the regulatory body have been executed to an international standard.
“For instance, scooping of the runway and taxi in our bill of quantity is a meter, but the regulatory body asked us to make it 3 to 4 meters depth. They also gave specification of the kind of laterite to use and we have to travel a long distance to bring it.
“Another setback the project suffered is Boko Haram insurgency. At a point, the airport contractors abandoned the project due to incessant attacks by the insurgents,’’ he said.
He said the additional work by the regulatory body had dragged them back, adding: “But, as government, we have never failed in funding any submission given to us. The governor had opened a dedicated account for the airport project, so the state government has adequate funds to service the completion of the project.”
He said in spite of the additional works introduced in the project, “work has reached over 70 per cent completion.’’
The immediate past commissioner for works, transport and energy, Alhaji Lawan Shettima Ali, told our correspondent months ago that the runway had reached 55 per cent completion. He said access road was at 56 per cent; gate house, 73 per cent; and gauge wire fence of the entire airport, 100 per cent; just as the terminal has reached advanced stage.
He noted that the runway was extended from 3.1km to 4.1km and a round beam introduced to the terminal building, while the control tower was expanded with advice from the NCAA.
“The parking bay at the airport fire service station has also been increased from 2 to 3 to accommodate additional fire fighting vehicles,’’ he said.
In Nasarawa State, the Lafia Cargo Airport project was initiated by Governor Umaru Tanko Almkura. It is situated in his ancestral hometown, Kwandere, about 8 kilometers from Lafia town, on a flat land, but there is no silver lining in the clouds that it would be commissioned before he hands over power to his successor on May 29.
On October 19, 2015, the governor signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a Chinese engineering company in Nigeria, Messrs Tongyi Group for the construction of the Lafia International Cargo Airport.
Barely two months later, precisely on December 11, 2015, the governor flagged off the construction of the airport project in Lafia, the capital of Nasarawa State in an elaborate ceremony.
The proposed cost of the project was put at N17, 599,797,729.34, but Daily Trust on Sunday learnt that 75 per cent of the amount is being financed through private partnership while the state government is providing 25 per cent of the cost within six years.
Even amidst criticisms, Almakura had insisted that the N17.6 billion gigantic cargo airport project was neither a luxury nor a waste of resources, but a dream come true. He maintained that the whole idea was borne out of the desire of the state to meet up with other states of the federation through development, stressing that it would have direct bearing on the lives of the people. He insisted that it must be completed and commissioned before his exit on May 29, 2019. He announced recently that the most difficult aspect of the project had been completed.
Enumerating the economic importance of the airport, aside the attraction of investment, he said it would also serve as an alternative terminus to the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja and assist in the decongestion and removal of the continuous overstretching of the facilities at the nation’s capital airport.
According to him, link roads would also be constructed to join the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and the airport, which would take an hour to navigate, as against the over three hours to Kaduna airport, which is currently the closest to the territory.
Although the Lafia Cargo Airport was designed to give the state an opportunity to provide alternative to the infrastructural deficit suffered by the FCT, and to unbundle the economic potentials of not only the state, the North-Central geo-political zones of the country, analysts say it remains a pipe dream, which fate would only be determined by the incoming government.
A government source said the airport was expected to witness robust patronage that would open vistas for more economic activities, employment generation, increased revenue inflow and attract investors into the state.
“While it will alleviate the suffering of people who have travelled elsewhere to board flights for pilgrimages to holy lands and other international engagements, this project is not only desirable, it will serve the socio-economic needs of the state,” said the source, who wouldn’t want to be named because he was not authorised to speak on the matter.
Similarly, no government official could speak with Daily Trust on Sunday on why the N17billion initial cost of the project was increased to N20 billion. But observers say it may not be unconnected with the change of the contractors from a Chinese firm to another one, coupled with changes in the foreign exchange market.
When contacted, the Commissioner for Works, Alhaji Muhammad Bashir Aliyu, said he could not comment on the project because he was not the person to talk on financial matters.
For now, it is unclear when the project would be completed, but Governor Almakura reportedly said he hoped to make a maiden take-off or landing at the airport before handing over power.
In Lagos, our correspondent reports that after a decade, the $450million Lekki International Airport project of the state government is yet to get investors as there is uncertainty surrounding the project
This much was confirmed by government officials who spoke with Daily Trust on Sunday.
However, our findings show that not much was done on the project by the outgoing administration of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode
The project, which was a brainchild of the past administration of Babatunde Raji Fashola, was designed as a public-private partnership (PPP) between the state government and a would-be investor.
To fast-track the implementation of the project, Fashola was said to have provided 3,500 hectares of land along the Lekki-Epe corridor, near the Lekki Free Trade Zone.
Although some investors initially showed interest in the project and even inspected the land at some point, it was learnt that they could not agree on the terms of the contract before the expiration of the administration of Fashola.
Ambode, however, inherited the airport project, alongside other projects on the Lekki Free Trade Zone, which include the Lekki Deep Seaport, Lekki Satellite Town, among others.
Our correspondent could not get official response from the state government, especially the Ministry of Commerce and Industry championing the project, but an official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the apathy from investors stalled the takeoff of the project.
“From the proposition of the project, it was designed to be a PPP. The commitment of the state government is only on the land and other necessary infrastructures, but the development and funding of the airport project is the responsibility of the private investors.
“It will not be correct to say that the state government under Ambode did not do anything about it. Don’t forget that the airport is not a stand-alone project. It is part of the development in the Lekki Free Trade Zone, which also includes the Lekki Deep Seaport, which construction was flagged off last year by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
“But the truth of the issue is that the government is still looking for investors for the project to take off. Yes, some investors indicated interest in the project under the past administration but the two parties could not agree at a memorandum of understanding,” the official said.
It would be recalled that in August 2011, there was a bidding for the project, with 33 Nigerian and international firms showing interest in the Request for Pre-Qualification (RFPQ).