The much awaited groundbreaking ceremony for the Makurdi Cargo Airport, which took place recently marked the beginning of a new era in the economic life of Benue State.
The airport project is a partnership between the Benue State Government and CDC Consortium, as well as Chinese and West African investors. The Makurdi Cargo Airport is sited 28 kilometers north of the Benue State capital. It is projected to be completed in 2020.
It must be stressed that the Benue State Government is not using public funds to build the cargo airport. The project is purely a private sector initiative under a public-private partnership agreement between the investors and the Samuel Ortom administration based on the fact that the private sector drives modern economies world wide.
The government provides the enabling environment through provision of security, policy, monitoring and regulation. While campaigning for election, Governor Ortom had pledged to attract private sector investment to the state to create massive jobs, wealth and opportunities as government at all levels currently lack such capacity.
According to terms of the cargo airport agreement, a consortium of several participants has pooled together N32.3 billion for the project, which represents 85% equity, while the State Government is to provide the remaining N5.7 billion as it’s own 15% equity contribution.
The fifteen percent equity will be paid by the State Government from the profit to be generated when the airport begins operations.The 85% funding provided by the consortium is not a loan to the Benue State Government which has granted a 25-year concession agreement for management of the airport to CDC Consortium.
The Ortom administration is sensitive to the plight of the people particularly workers who endure delayed payment of salaries, so it could not have embarked on a capital intensive project such as the airport.
However, the Makurdi Cargo Airport will enhance exportation of farm produce, improve transportation and create thousands of jobs for the people. It will also lead to springing up of industries in the area as well as provide avenue for training of pilots and aircraft engineers.
It will bring about the dualization of roads, massive housing projects, and rapid rural transformation to the host and surrounding communities.
The airport will offer a shift from conventional airports in the country as its designers took into consideration, the export market potentials of Benue, the neighbouring states and passenger volumes projected to grow in future.
Trading in goods contributes significantly to the Gross Domestic Product, GDP of Nigeria. This reality presents states like Benue with the opportunity to use their comparative advantage in agriculture to drive the economy. This is the direction Governor Samuel Ortom is moving.
As the Governor said during the groundbreaking ceremony, the Benue State Government is giving maximum support for the successful completion of the cargo airport believing that when it begins operation, the benefits will be unquantifiable for the people of the state.
With the coming on stream of the cargo airport, the post harvest losses Benue farmers face yearly will be reduced. The possibility of farm produce being exported to Europe, Asia, the Americas and other parts of the world has excited many people in the state.
Between now and 2020 when the project is billed to be completed, the necessary advocacy for increased agriculture production and facilities to enhance the necessary inputs to feed the cargo airport from its locality would be put in place.
Already, the Benue State Bureau of Rural Development and Cooperatives is aggressively constructing and rehabilitating roads in various communities of the state to enable farmers move their produce.
With the Makurdi Cargo Airport and numerous other efforts made by the Samuel Ortom administration, the future of the Benue State economy is guaranteed.
In the face of the current economic recession in the country the opportunities offered by this private sector driven initiative remain irresistible.
(Mr Akase is Chief Press Secretary to the Benue State Governor).