The economic merit born from the aviation sector is one that cannot be overlooked or underestimated in the scale of value. The industry delivers in bulk, socio-economic benefits that push a country’s outreach beyond its national boundaries.
This advantageous streak informs relationships on an international scale; further establishing alliances that would in turn provide worthy returns.
The sector’s skillset extends beyond the appeal of swift transportation. From conveying people from one destination to another to the delivery of goods and services, the sky-bound division cannot be denied its contribution to the upkeep of a nation’s welfare.
Its economic impact ranges from its ability to provide employment opportunities, wealth and the shoring up of global businesses. It also enables developing countries to facilitate trade and enables linkages in the global supply chain.
In Nigeria, the aviation industry has been pulling its weight steadily in the ring of competition; going one step at a time on its tower of service and ambition with new accomplishments gained under the belt with every passing year.
Celebrating its latest infrastructural addition, Ebonyi State’s new clad airport is a telling debut on the map of Nigeria and to the rest of the world.
The airport which gulped a sum of N36 billion comprises local and international terminals with facilities that would aid the importation and exportation of cargo produce.
Air Peace operated the first flights to the airport as its two Embraer 145 aircraft from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja and the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos touched down at the airport.
According to David Umahi, the Ebonyi State Governor, Buhari approved the sum of N10 billion for the take-off of the project, adding that several supports were also received from the Federal Government to ensure the successful completion of the airport.
Ebony airport named President Muhammadu Buhari Airport has been positioned to not just operate passenger and cargo flight operations but to connect the South East to the rest of the world.
Umahi speaks on the airport’s potential
David Umahi, the Ebonyi State Governor who spoke during the commissioning of the airport said the operation of the airport will open up Ebonyi State to the world.
He said it will attract aircraft, cargo, passengers and the prospect of people getting jobs and commerce as people can fly in and out of the country, using the Ebonyi airport.
“It is one thing to have a good project and an airport like this and it is another thing to maintain. So we have just started the journey. What is good must necessarily be maintained. There is room for expansion. What you are seeing here today is just the beginning,” the governor said.
Speaking on the challenges of building the airport, he said, “I remembered the toils of the founding fathers. I remembered that nobody gave us the space. Even when we were trying to build this place and Enugu airport was in use, I pleaded with the South East Governors. A lot of people asked why we were building the airport. They said we should take the money and renovate Enugu airport.”
He said President Buhari gave the state 10 billion for support in the construction of the airport and approved money to do the international wing of the airport.
“I must thank President Buhari. Even when we were challenged and there was no money anywhere for our equipment, he wrote a letter to the Ministry of Finance. He said you must find money, even if it is a loan, this airport must stand. And let me say that the name of this airport as approved by the House Assembly and Mr Speaker, is President Muhammadu Buhari International Airport.
“If you say Buhari is not good for you, Buhari is good for me. Buhari is good for Ebonyi State and so we love him and we thank him for the success of this airport,” Umahi said.
The governor said the airport is not a cargo airport but an international airport built with international standards in mind. He said the airport has international and local wings already in place.
He said the airport has the fastest airport approval in Nigeria. He appreciated Hadi Sirika, the minister of aviation; Godwin Emefiele, the CBN Governor; Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and Planning of Nigeria, the speaker of Ebonyi State House of Assembly, amongst others who contributed to the success of the construction of the airport.
Umahi said while the airport has commenced operations, what is left is the airfield lighting for the taxiway and the runway which has been awarded and paid for.
“We needed to make this place to be the best and to meet standards. So the job is going to start next week in this place.”
The Governor offered the indigenes of the state free two weekly flights from Lagos and Abuja for the next four weeks.
Umahi, however, said that the airport would be handed over to the Federal Government for proper concession, stressing that the airport would be formally commissioned by President Buhari soon and enjoined the people of the state to judiciously use the facilities.
He said the Ebonyi state has come of age, adding that the airport will create direct and indirect jobs for the people of Ebonyi.
Time will fail us to let you know the jobs we have created in this administration. But we are going to have a day of accountability when we will let Ebonyi people know what we have done for them.
The airport facilities
The runway at the new Ebony Airport is measured 3.1 by 75 meters but the active part of the 75 meters is 60 meters. The shoulders are measured 15 meters, but unlike other airports, the shoulders are the same strength as the main runway, with only marking separating them.
Built with 14 inches of reinforced concrete shows the runway concrete is very durable.
The control tower has nine floors. Installation of the consul has started, as the cabin that will host the consul has arrived.
The perimeter fencing measures 16 kilometres radius. It has completed block work with anti-climb facilities.
Installation of airfield lighting is currently ongoing and it is Category 2 and the installation is on both sides of the runway. The work is said to be completed before the end of June 2023.
The airport has full navigation aids.
The airport also has all the ground handling equipment. The state government has completed plans for Skyway Aviation Handling Plc to provide manpower to manage the ground handling services and it plans to sign MoU to train Ebonyi citizens and license them to work at the airport under the supervision of SAHCO.
The airport is also working with the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to provide Aerodrome Rescue and Fire Fighting Services and Aviation Security. Ebony citizens will also be trained and licensed by the agency to provide these services.
As Nigeria looks to tackle youth unemployment across Nigeria, the Ebony State Airport offers some direct and indirect job opportunities for its indigenes.
The Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON), Ebonyi State chapter, had earlier said that the international airport under construction by the state government will create massive employment opportunities in the state.
“The people from this area will benefit very well. It will go a long way to employ the people from this place and those from other parts of the state. We are pleased with what is happening here and we are very happy; the quality of work and how the work is going very fast.
“Last time we came, it was like a desert but now, the work is almost complete. We want to thank the governor so much for this wonderful project and all the numerous projects he has executed,” Nkechinyere Iyioku, chairman of the association in the state, said.
Other benefits of the airport
The Ebony airport will be used to convey made-in-Ebonyi State goods to other states and countries.
The airport which will complement the Ebonyi State Mall will be the 4th airport in the South East – Enugu, Imo, Anambra and Ebonyi.
It will be one of the most functional airports in Nigeria.
The airport will be operated by standard aircraft as the governor complained bitterly about the substandard aircraft some airlines send to Nigeria.
The Ebonyi State Government will partner with Ethiopian Airlines. The governor had earlier received Ethiopian airline delegates led by Solomon Mengistu, the airline’s traffic and sales manager, Enugu Office, in his office as they presented an aircraft prototype to him.