History was made yesterday when the first aircraft touched down at the newly constructed Ekiti Cargo Airport along Ado-Ijan road, Ado-Ekiti, the state capital.
The inaugural landing of the aircraft was witnessed by a jubilant crowd and other dignitaries, including Governor Kayode Fayemi; Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Niyi Adebayo; Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Funminiyi Afuye; his deputy, Hakeem Jamiu and other top government officials.
The flight with registration number: NAF 930 belonging to the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) landed at the airport around 10:20 am with the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika and officials of the ministry on board.
Fayemi was elated at the aircraft’s landing and the construction of the airport in record time.
The outgoing governor, who described the airport as a dream come true for Ekiti State people, said the facility would boost the socio-economic growth and development of the state.
He added that the project, which began in 2019, was geared towards unlocking the vast potential inherent in the state to attract investors, provide easy transportation of agricultural products, and job opportunities and open the state for rapid development.
Fayemi said that the inauguration of the airport was in fulfilment of his promise to continue to work for the people of the state who elected him to his very last day in office saying the project saw the light of the day despite the very limited resources available to the state.
Going down memory lane, the governor recalled that the move to start the project began during his first tenure in 2012 with a Committee on the Viability of the Airport led by a legal luminary, Aare Afe Babalola, raised by his then administration, noting that the committee submitted its report in 2012.
According to him, his first administration through the State Executive Council considered and approved the report submitted which was accommodated in its plan for the 2013-2015 Medium Term Sector Strategy.
He however noted that the plan was halted by his exit from office after the 2014 governorship election which placed the project on suspension.
The governor said his successor in office, Ayo Fayose, embraced the idea to continue with the project but it couldn’t see the light of the day until his tenure ended in 2018.
He said further: “Upon my assumption of office in 2018, I appointed aviation experts and industry-related officials to kick-start the implementation of the project. They made several advocate visits to communities to meet the requirements for the establishment of the airport.
“The administration took the following steps: We secured the approval; the revalidation of approval from the Federal Ministry of Aviation. We also secured the Department of State Services (DSS) clearance; we paid all the necessary fees for the construction, planning and certification to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority and conducted an Environmental and Sustainability Impact Assessment.
“As a government that adheres strictly to the rule of law with unwavering respect for the rights of our people, we made several appeals to communities affected for enumeration of their farmlands to ensure commensurate monetary compensation is paid on their crops.
“To this end, a total of 669 claimants were duly compensated out of those that presented themselves for the exercise. We acquired 4,017 hectares of land from nine communities: Ago Aduloju, Aso Ayegunle, Bolorunduro, Igbogun, Araromi, Obbo, Afao, Orun, Igbemo and Ijan covering three local government areas in the state.”
On his part, Aviation Minister, Sirika also announced to the excited audience that the federal government would site a cargo facility at the airport. He described the Ekiti Airport as “an extremely very important project,” which would facilitate the import and export of goods and commodities.
Sirika recalled that when he was on the site for the groundbreaking in October 2019, there were divergent views as to the viability of the project, noting that airports are being used by what he called “one-city nation-states in the world” to drive their economy.
He added: “I used to make an assertion, the one-mile long road leads to nowhere but one-mile runway leads to everywhere. You see, I came here today through the runway of this airport provided by Governor Fayemi. There is a future with this project, market and trade can drive everybody here.
“I was at ABUAD; I saw the university, the farm, the industrial park and the hospital. If there is an airport here, it will connect people to this facility and reduce foreign medical tourism. Airports are by no means the best catalysts for the economic growth of any state or nation.