MAKURDI CARGO AIRPORT: THE AVAILABLE LINKS

I read a piece on the Makurdi Cargo Airport written by one of Benue’s great writers, Dr. Terhemba Shija and I found the write-up as a very constructive input. This statement from Dr. Shija, “I have no problem with the Makurdi cargo airport project” set a wonderful tone for a robust discuss.

Dr. Shija, the questions you have raised regarding the cargo airport are well seated and deserving of a response from the Government.

I nonetheless disagree with you that the Benue State Government “…is selling this idea primarily as a political project with apparently no bankable feasibility study report to back it up.” The National Civil Aviation Policy 2013 reviewed all sectors of the aviation industry and provided the feasibility study for private sector development of cargo airports in particular and aviation infrastructure in general in Nigeria.

A major part of the Aviation Master plan was (is) the classification of Airports into: (1) Pilgrims Terminals (2)Cargo Terminals (3)International Airports. Between 2012 and 2014, both Price Water House Coopers and IOS Partners, Inc, completed feasibility studies on: (1) Aviation Institution Reforms (2) Infrastructural development (3) Rapid Cargo Airports Development in Nigeria.

The study identified Benue as one of the states good enough to have a cargo airport. The report concluded that the existing passenger airports in the country could not combine the cargo component, hence the need for the establishment of airports to specialise in airlifting of cargo.

Let’s now zero the answer to Benue State. After it had carried out its field study, CDC Consortium made a presentation to the government economic team on the feasibility of a cargo airport and its economic viability in Benue State etc. The government team was satisfied with the presentation of the group before the agreement was made.

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On your genuine concern about the 25-year concession given the investors, you need not worry so much sir, because the investors have carried out their diligent study of the Benue aviation market particularly as it affects cargo transportation and are confident about the existing prospects.

No Dr. Shija, the Benue State Government has not unjustly taken credit over the cargo airport. The Government has attracted the airport project to Benue and has already provided massive land upon which the airport is to be built. Secondly, the 15% equity contribution, though not to be made now, will be paid later through the profit generated from the airport, so the Benue State Government holds a vital stake in the project as a key business partner.

Dr. Shija, your statement that “…there appears to be a gross lack of preparedness for the arrival of this gigantic project in Benue…” is also not correct sir. The Ortom administration is well prepared for the cargo airport project. Negotiations for the airport began last year. An MOU was signed between the State Government and the investors after the Government Economic Team had met on many occasions with the investors and all the necessary steps were taken. The communities to host the project were then contacted and the land obtained.

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Your interesting question “Where do we have the cargo for export” finds answer in these facts: the airport is not billed for completion next week. It is to be completed in 2020. The Samuel Ortom administration is already taking steps to boost mechanised farming in the state and one of the measures is the introduction of the tractor scheme which will enable our farmers to buy and own tractors as well as other farm equipment at (government) subsidized rates. You are aware that the government subsidized fertilizer at 38% for farmers at the commencement of the last cropping season. This will continue. Similarly, dry season farming is being encouraged as the establishment of earth dams is set to commence soon for irrigation.
You may ask ‘where is the capital? Simple answer sir. The Ortom administration has attracted a N2 billion loan from CBN for Benue farmers as well as agree with Bank of Industry to jointly table N2 billion for farmers of the state in particular at only 5% interest rate. The State Government has let go of its 5% in the deal so that our farmers can obtain the loans at only 5%. This has never happened in Benue before now.

I expect your next question to be ‘where are the roads to link farmers and markets? Great question that will be, if you ask me sir. The Samuel Ortom administration is already doing much in road construction as 11 abandoned roads and two new ones are at various stages of completion while the Bureau for Rural Development and Cooperatives is aggressively rehabilitating and constructing roads in different communities of the state.

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Wonderful question from you on the issue of Marketing Boards, Dr Shija. Come next week, the Benue State Executive Council will approve the revamping of the moribund State Marketing Board. You are aware sir, that the move will mark the return of the Commodity Marketing Company Ltd, thus addressing the lingering problem of unsold farm produce in parts of the state.

Though I don’t speak for CDC Consortium and may therefore not go deeply into the issue of their identity, permit me to say that the Benue State Government did not give a contract to the Consortium. It would therefore have been out of place to insist that the group displayed a track record of achievements (evidence of past projects they handled) before any agreement would be signed.

Your 5th question goes back to the preceding one. Again, since I do not speak for the Consortium and the administration which I serve also did not give a contract to the group, it will be a harsh judgment if I join you in doubting the credibility of the group and even qualifying their promise as “…what only money doublers can promise or do.”

I hope I have attended to your posers Dr. Shija. Remain blessed orvesen wam.

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