…Minister says airport projects cater to the needs of the affluent in society, not the poor.
The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, has advised state governments across the country to focus on projects that would benefit the generality of the nation’s poor and downtrodden, instead of pursuing ventures that further serve the interests of the elite.
The Minister specifically called for caution in the area of new airport, saying no governor should embark on such project now unless the socio-economic fortune of such a state and the country can support new or additional airport.
Mr. Amaechi made gave the advice at the weekend in Abeokuta, the Ogun state capital, while fielding questions from reporters after he carried out an assessment of some projects executed by the state government on behalf of the federal government.
Despite the economic downturn occasioned by crashing price of oil in the international market, some state governors, precisely Tanko Al-Makura (Nasarawa) and Ayodele Fayose (Ekiti) have embarked on multi-billion airport projects in their respective states.
Stressing that airport project is elitist and would not relieve the poor of their suffering, the Minister said that Nigeria already has many airports that have proven to be unviable.
“Governors should focus on those things that would improve on the lives of the poor, not the rich. It’s the rich people that fly plane. How many poor people know where airport is much more fly an aircraft?” he queried.
“I believe that the construction of airport should be backed by the growth of the economy. There are some airports that are constructed just for the governors to land and take off. That won’t be the idea for me as minister of transportation.
“I’d prefer that all airports that are constructed would be backed by economic demand. And when we look at the numbers, if the numbers add up…We would not discourage Ogun State if you like to construct an airport, but we would like to advise that they should look at the economics of an airport”, Amaechi said.
The former Rivers State governor, however, assured of Federal Government’s commitment towards the completion of new terminals of the nation’s four international airports in Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and Kano.
He also assured the Ogun State Government of the Federal Government’s support if it wants to build an airport.
Mr. Amaechi, who disclosed that he was in the state primarily to ascertain some of the roads constructed by the state government on behalf of Federal Government, added that the construction of railway between Lagos and Calabar as well as Lagos and Kano would commence this year.
“I am convinced that most of the roads have been constructed. By the time we write the report, we have engineers, we have people from the Public Procurement Department, they would assess the cost and put it in the report”, he said.
Earlier, Governor Ibikunle Amosun solicited the support of the Minister in ensuring the completion of the abandoned airport project in Ewekoro local government area of the state.
He said: “It’s being built by Federal Government. In fact it is the oldest airport they have in Nigeria. It was done in 1940/41; that was what they were using during the World War and that’s why we have the Commonwealth cemetery there. Somehow, after the war, nobody said anything about it.
“But 12 years ago, Federal Government started again. Everything has been done. Contractors have even been mobilised to site before they stopped funding it.
“Ogun State is the industrial hub of Nigeria. There is no nation that would develop if the industries are not there. Even in the radius of 5km, in US, we have even about four airports, we have even examples in London.
“But for us, it is not just for the governor to land; people would want to move their goods and services, people will want to come and that’s why we need an airport here. And in any case, the airport in Lagos, where can they expand to? It’s congested”.