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Multiple cargo airports of corruption around Nigeria

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By Oludare Mayowa

In the last couple of years, it has become a penchant for some state governors to embark on the construction of cargo airports within their jurisdictions in what they claim was meant to promote agro-allied exports.

From Nasarawa to Anambra, Ekiti, Osun, Ogun, Benue and Jigawa, the governors of the states have earmarked huge state resources to realize their dream of owning cargo airports while some of them have completed the project with a huge cost to their state treasury.

For instance, in Anambra and Nasarawa states, the projects have been completed with huge scarce resources that ought to have been deployed to other life touching projects with value and benefits to the people.

Ordinarily, there is nothing wrong with states embarking on such projects to promote economic scale and ensure the development of their domain in whatever way the chief executives deem fit.

However, the challenges lie in the fact that some of the states have a large expanse of land for agricultural produce, yet many of the states are paying mere lip services to the promotion of agricultural growth.

Majority of the states that have made the building of cargo airports their priority have not done enough to encourage the growth of the agric sector, which is supposed to be the primary feeder of the cargo airports.

From the last couple of years, the agric cargo emanating from these states have remained insignificant to guarantee the free flow of commodity to be trans-loaded through the airport thereby making such projects a viable one.

Aside from the issue of insecurity, which has discouraged many farmers from going to the farms, lack of adequate inputs, including machinery to support mechanized farming continue to slow down the growth of the agric sector.

From available data from the NBS, the agricultural produce generated by the 36 states is not sufficient to support a dedicated airport designated as a cargo airport anywhere in the country.

For instance, states like Ogun, Osun and Ekiti have idle airports around them in Ibadan, Akure and even the Lagos airport could handle whatever agric cargo from the neighbouring states.

Perhaps, what is required is for those airports, which are currently underutilised to be upgraded or recalibrated to accommodate cargo terminals sufficient to support the agric producing states.

The same goes for Anambra where there is Enugu airport and Nasarawa where the Abuja airport or Minna Airport could serve the same purpose without the state committing huge scarce resources to build another project that will end up being underutilised.

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From the way the projects are sited and the zeal to pursue the realization, it has become obvious that the real motives of those states building the airports remain suspect.

In ordinary terms, the airports shouldn’t have become a major priority of the states and instead, they should be seen focusing their attention on promoting the growth of the agriculture sector through intervention programmes that will encourage many of the unemployed youths to take up farming.

From their budgeting process, it should be obvious that the states meant business in supporting the critical sector of their local economies to justify the cargo projects. However, the network of roads leading to the agricultural producing areas in most of the states are in terrible conditions and a huge discouragement for farmers to transport their produce to the nearest market.

Access to land for farming activities in some of these states by prospective farmers has become so difficult that it would be easy for the Carmel to pass through the proverbial needle eye than investors in the agric value chain to obtain a permit for land.

Apart from the fact that the airport projects will continue to drain the treasury of the states, in terms of maintenance and operational cost, it will also become underutilised for lack of sufficient cargo to carry.

It is rather preferable that states should focus on their core competence and areas of their comparative advantage rather than embarking on grandiose projects that will add little or no value to the economies of the states.

Most of the existing international airports in the country could also serve the same purpose of shipping the commodity to the export market if really their concerns are about promoting increased commodity exports.

Many of the international airlines that operate to and from the country go back to their base often with sandbags as cargo to ensure the balance of their aircraft, some of the states that are sure of their ability to generate agricultural cargo should form business alliances with some of the airlines for the purpose of transporting their cargo.

This will be cost-effective for the state rather than spending their state scarce resources to build white elephant projects that will serve no useful purpose for the state except for showing off reasons and other hidden motives.

Both Akure and Ibadan airports remain underutilised for lack of enough traffic and there is nothing wrong if the government of Ekiti, for instance, could tap that opportunity for the expected cargo generated in their states for the export markets.

The land currently being allocated by states for such projects could be turned to agricultural estates to promote ranches for the rearing of cattle, milk factories and increasing export of process beef to earn foreign exchange for their states.

Such agricultural settlement could also be developed to promote the cultivation of other priority commodities, both for exports and local consumption. This will help the state to grow their local economies and increase revenue generations for further developmental purposes.

For many Nigerians, it’s not too late for those states to have a change of heart and may even convert the already completed cargo airport to more viable projects such as industrial parks for the benefit of agro-allied processing industry and other comparative advantage commodities.

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