By Akanimo Sampson
Bayelsa State Airport is ready to commence commercial flight operations.
The airport project has received the approval of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to start operations after months of expectations.
NCAA Director-General, Dr Nuhu Musa, has already presented the regulatory body’s approval letter to Governor Douye Diri at the Government House, Yenagoa, after the team completed the mandatory inspection of the airport and its facilities.
Musa said the airport met all airspace standards and was 100 per cent ready for daytime flight operations.
Diri’s Chief Press Secretary, Daniel Alabrah, quoted the NCAA chief as saying that the approval was sequel to the report of the agency’s inspection team, which, prior to the visit, had certified that out of 29 gaps, the airport was able to close 26.
He noted that other requirements were non-safety-related and that work was already in progress to achieve night flight operations.
He said the agency has to limit flight operations to daytime as the runway lights were being installed, noting that once completed, full approval would be granted.
Musa commended the state government for the quality of work done at the airport and the capable personnel from the state that facilitated the issuing of the licence.
Diri, who was said to be visibly happy, expressed appreciation to God for making the long-awaited day possible.
He said issuing of the operational licence was a winding journey that began from the administration of his immediate past predecessor to when he assumed duty over a year ago.
Diri commended former Governor Seriake Dickson for his foresight in ensuring that the state had its own airport.
He noted that Dickson started the project, which had been on the drawing board of past administrations and saw to its completion before handing over to him.
He said his administration was therefore determined to ensure flight operations commenced as he set the machinery in motion to get the NCAA nod.
“This is a dream come true for our state and our people. I thank God Almighty because this journey had been a winding one from my immediate past predecessor and I have been in the saddle for over a year waiting for this licence. Today, God made it possible.
“I also thank my predecessor, Senator Dickson. This airport had been on the drawing board but he took the bull by the horn by starting the airport and virtually completed it. May I on behalf of this government and the people of Bayelsa appreciate him.
“As I came on board, having seen what he did, my administration had to cross the Ts and dot the Is. Having been briefed on certain requirements, I wasted no time in approving what was necessary to ensure that the airport was ready for use.
‘’Today, we have the approval for the airport to commence commercial flight operations’’, Diri said and also expressed appreciation to the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, the NCAA DG and officials for the approval and promised to do all it will take to get full flight operations.
According to him, all the necessary facilities and equipment are in place and will be installed in no distant time, especially all the runway lighting system.
Continuing, he said the importance of an airport could not be overemphasised, particularly in the South-South region as the centre of oil and gas activities in the country.
“Bayelsa is a major contributor to the oil and gas business in Nigeria. Bayelsa is the centre not only of oil and gas but also other economic activities within the South-South and the South-East.
“So, the Bayelsa airport is critical not only to Bayelsans but indeed the people of the South-South, South-East and by extension the nearby countries. We are at the border with the Gulf of Guinea”, the governor said