MKO Abiola International Airport: FOCAL OR FARCE? By Shalom Ibironke

The government of the State of Osun has one of its most pivotal goals the ambition to raise a world-class airport for the state. This goal is regarded as a highly noble one as it would in no small terms attract limitless opportunities into the South-Western state. The Osun State Airport which was named after the acclaimed June 12 1993 election winner, Chief MKO Abiola has once again been revived. As much of a good news as this is, the timing makes one raise his/her eyebrows. Casting one’s mind back to the pre-2014 elections, when the government made a similar move but only ended up making a large fence in the stead of an Airport. Now elections are nigh and another move has been made with regards the Ido-Osun located Airport. According to the Chief of Staff to the Governor of the State, the government would ensure that the Airport is completed under the current administration, in 2018. However, recent developments have proved that forecast impossible, further prompting the government and the contractors to come out and lighten the expectation of the public by stating that only the first phase would be completed under this administration, while the next phase would be completed within two years.

Upon conceptualization of the project, the government allotted about 839 hectares of land at the Ede North/Egbedore local government areas. In the strive to bring the project to fruition N4.5 billion was awarded to the project in 2012, however, after review it was increased to N11 billion. This funds were acquired through a process termed by the governor as “flexible funding”. A term which he explained to mean a manner of partnership with banks to pay the contractors. However, the dream of constructing an Airport within two years ended with the euphoria of the election victory. This dream rested in peace until the second half of 2017 when the government developed a plan which is believed to be capable of bringing the airport to its feet finally. This plan involved the signing of a concession agreement with a private firm, AWOL International Limited who also collaborated with a Turkish Firm, Biray Group, and a Turkish Exim Bank so as to be capable of funding the project 100% independently of the government. After a detailed assessment and estimation, the contractors released an estimate of N69 billion for the project which also comes along with the provision of about 10,000 jobs for the youths during the period of construction, and about 2000 jobs thereafter. This public-private-partnership allows for the construction firm to build the project, operate it for the next 30 years, then hand it over back to the government. Included in the plans for the airport is the provision of several facilities that could take Ipinle Osun to the peak-level where it belongs in the economic sector of Nigeria, and even Africa.

The state’s location at the heart of the Southwest could serve as great vantage as her border with 5 states enables her to expand her trading horizons to border states like Ondo, Oyo, Ekiti, Kwara, and Ogun, and even expand further to states like Edo and Kogi. The cargo services of the airport could also boost the strength of the Agriculture Industry in the state. Even as Africa in her entirety boasts of only three aircraft maintenance facilities, the MKO Abiola International Airport is proposed to host the fourth facility of that kind which will not only serve Nigeria but would serve the whole of West Africa with great monopoly.

With these almost innumerable benefits of the proposed Airport and the seeming brilliance of the partnership deal, one can almost resign in utmost reverence of the focal nature of the project, however with less than seven months to the next gubernatorial election this could be seen as merely another political tool to win over the love and votes of the masses. And in the euphoria of election victory 10,000 jobs could magically turn to just 10 jobs, an airport be turned into a land in fallow period, and the dreams could all die into one big fat farce.

In order to avoid such an unfavourable but highly familiar fate, it is essential for the people to be at guard and actively engage the government so as to synchronize the government’s priority with the people’s. It is also essential to make clear to government of the day that success or failure of the MKO Abiola International Airport project shall determine if they stand a chance at the forthcoming elections. Focal or Farce the airport must come to be!

 


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