From PAUL ORUDE, Bauchi
Residents of Bauchi State are excited at the approaching completion of the new airport in their land.
They are happy because the construction of the N7.9 billion Bauchi International Airport will soon be concluded and it is expected to airlift pilgrims to Saudi Arabia this year. Most of them, who had the opportunity to visit the airport under construction, were pleasantly surprised at the progress of work when Governor Isa Yuguda recently went there to lay the foundation of the airport
They are so happy that the airport project, which they believe is long overdue, has finally come to completion after over two decades of uncertainty and abandonment by successive governments.
An elated Yuguda could not hide his joy at the foundation laying ceremony, which was attended by former information minister, Prof. Dora Akunyili, and former governor of the state, Theophilus Bamigboye, among several dignitaries and top traditional rulers. Going down memory lane, Yuguda lamented how the project, which was started in the 1980s, was almost dying a natural death due to bureaucratic bottlenecks. He said he had to summon the political courage to prevent its demise.
Yuguda recalled that former president Shehu Shagari approved its construction alongside those of Ibadan, Abeokuta, Minna, Akure and Warri, some of which had since become operational. He lamented that the Bauchi International Airport project was a victim of lack of continuity in government policies and programmes by successive administrations, which contribute to slow growth of the country.
He said the project was resuscitated by the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo administration, when he (Yuguda), as a minister of transport, moved and got the approval of the Federal Executive Council for the construction of a befitting airport for Bauchi to serve as the gateway to the North-East geo-political zone of the country.
The governor informed that he had the opportunity to complete all paperwork for the construction when he became minister of aviation, lamenting that as soon as he left the Obasanjo government, all his successors abandoned the airport project.
He recalled: “As soon as I left the government, all my successors abandoned the Bauchi airport project. It is a pity that there is no continuity in government policies and programmes.
Each person comes to office and abandons what his predecessor was doing, all in a bid to start his own projects afresh.” Yet the importance of the Bauchi International Airport is so glaring to even the blind. Bauchi is regarded as the home of hospitality and tourism, and the airport, Daily Sun investigation shows, will have a massive boost on the hospitality industry.
Blessed with the famous Yankari Games Reserve, good road network and friendly weather and vegetation, Bauchi is a tourist’s delight and most visitors are amazed by the neatness and serenity of the state capital as they travel to Yankari to relax.
According to the governor, besides being home to the premier game reserve, the Yankari Games Reserve, in Alkaleri Local Government area of the state, the strategic location of Bauchi as a gateway to the North-East made the construction of an international airport in the state an imperative.
He says: “With an international airport in place, Bauchi State will attract visitors, both local and foreign, and more tourists to Yankari Game Reserve and this will go a long way in boosting the economy of the state.” The governor informed that the Bauchi airport had been registered with the International Civil Aviation Authority in Canada as Nigeria’s fifth international airport and expressed the hope that the Federal Government would reimburse the Bauchi State government for the money spent on the construction of the airport, which he said had a runway of 3.4 kilometres.
Yuguda then commended the contractor handling the project, Messrs Triacta Nigeria Limited for the quality of job so far done and also for working hard to ensure that it delivered the airport as scheduled. He also praised the host communities for cooperating with the contractor.
The Bauchi International Airport can accommodate five 747 and the latest airplanes that can carry up to 800 passengers, making it one of the biggest airport in the country. It is going to be the fifth biggest international airport in Nigeria.
With the International Wing and Domestic wings near completion, normal activity is expected to commence in the airports in two months, Yuguda has assured adding that safety standards had been adequately adhered to in constructing the airport.
The governor also said that an efficient transportation system both on land, sea or air was necessary for the socio-economic development of any country, adding that an efficient and effective transportation system was needed to facilitate the movement of the people and goods within the state. He said: “It is in realisation of the direct bearing transportation has on the overall socio-economic development of the state that our government has since inception embarked on the construction of roads in different parts of the state.” Yuguda said the objective of constructing the airport began with the constitution of the Bauchi State Special Projects Tender Committee.
He said the committee was charged with the responsibility of fast tracking the award of contract for the execution of some special projects in the state in line with the principles of due process. He said following due process and diligence, the construction of the airport was awarded to Messrs Triacta Nigeria Limited at a total cost of N7, 998,595, 433.13 with a completion period of 18 months.
He said the state government made a down payment of 70 per cent of the total contract sum to the contractors.
He said the construction of the airport’s runway of 3.4 kilometres had reached an advanced stage, assuring that the state pilgrims to the 2013 Hajj in Saudi Arabia would be airlifted from the airport. Speaking earlier during the foundation laying ceremony, the state Commissioner for Works, Bukata Bukkar Bayero, said the construction of the airport by the administration was historic as successive administrations had not been able to realise the dream. Bayero said apart from constructing the airport, the present administration was determined to give the people of the state more dividends of democracy.
Also speaking on the occasion, Akunyili commended the Governor Yuguda administration for embarking on the construction of the airport. She admitted the airport would boost the economy of Bauchi State.
She said: “It is the love that Governor Isa Yuguda has for the electorate who voted him into office that motivated him to give the people of Bauchi State this befitting airport.” Former Military Administrator of the state, Colonel Theophilos Bamigboye, in his remark on the occasion expressed delight in the state government’s decision to construct an international airport in Bauchi and expressed the hope that with the airport in place, the economy of the state would improve tremendously.
Most residents who spoke to our correspondent expressed joy at having an airport and not having to travel to Jos or Gombe before travelling by air. “It is a good development because when you think of the hassles you face having to travel about five to six hours to do business in Abuja or travel to Jos or Gombe to get a flight to your intended destination, I think I commend the government for the courage to finish the project,” Alhaji Tahir Bobo, a businessman said.