Anambra- Unnecessary fuss about an airport
The Anambra Airport City Project has been slammed with so much vigor. Deliberately misconstrued by politicians and publicly lampooned by detractors. Both have seized upon the project to score off the Obiano government. They have queried its cost. They have also dismissed its economic importance.
Is the state not too ambitious in building a $2billion airport city? Why spend that much when O.R.Tambo International Airport, South Africa, reputed to be one of the most expensive airports on the African continent is not anywhere close? What will the airport do differently? Will it land a phantom aircraft? The questions and snide comments were endless. Most of them designed to impugn the fidelity of the project.
Notwithstanding, the Anambra airport city is not in anyway fundamentally different from others elsewhere. It is not going to land an unusual aircraft. But it will surely have some facilities that will set it apart as different. It is also going to have an airport city (aerotropolis). It is for reasons of modern facilities and perhaps because of its perch on an artificial island that an airport like Kansai, International Airport, Osaka, Japan stands tall at $20billion – one of the two most expensive airports in the world. At $20billion it is ten times the price of the Anambra city airport.
Airports are designed for a lot of reasons. If designed for skeletal services as evident in some African countries it actually spares on cost. Otherwise it is expensive when designed to cater for both passenger and cargo traffic volumes. Quite recently a lot of African airports, not as elaborately designed, had to undergo expansion in order to accommodate the booming tourism and renewed interest in investment on the continent. An airport is not expected to be cheap if designed to have modern facilities that allow it to play in the big league. The Anambra airport city project is designed to have such facilities like terminal buildings or cargo sheds, more than a runway (each of which is not less than a mile long) aviation fuel dump, international hotel, maintennance workshop, industrial cum business parks, malls etc in addition to an airport city.
It is not very proper for objectors to the project to cavil about the cost when the state does not bear any financial responsibility in it. The project is at zero cost to the state. Her 5% equity contribution is in the area of land provision, building of access roads and creating enabling environment. Of the consortium of three companise namely Chinese Aviation Company (Sinoking Group), Orient Petroleum Resources and the Anambra State Government only the latter has no major financial commitment to the project. Sinoking is contributing 75%, Orient 20% while Anambra state government puts in 5%.
It is fairly odd to think that Anambra state government will be so inconsiderate as to lay some burden of debt on the future of the state. At least its record of achievements has not supported that. What the government has done was to exploit the advantage of private partnership initiative to build up the state and make it a place the citizens should be proud to call their home. Those who quibble over a non-existent repayment schedule are just fretting over nothing. The airport will operate on the basis of Build, Operate, Manage and Transfer (BOMT). It is therefore unnecessary to split hairs on repayment when such was never on the card. The airport city will be sufficient unto itself.
On the part of those who dismiss the airport as being of little economic importance to the state it is a well-founded opinion that besides generating revenue it will aggregate jobs for the people. It is estimated that about one thousand two hundred direct jobs and close to four thousand indirect ones will be created. It is a triffle more disdainful to advocate that Asaba, Enugu and or Makurdi cargo aiport should serve the needs of the state. If ndi Igbo, nay Anambra, contribute a sizeable proportion to the estimated five to six million passenger flow in Nigeria airports anually it is pertinent for the state to have an airport. Except in a detractor’s mind, the idea to continue patronizing the adjoining airports is not fertile. They cannot adequately satisfy the flight needs of ndi Anambra.
As a matter of fact, those who call the airport city project unrealistic are not altogether foresighted. They are not better than Americans of the 1860s who dismissed the effort of the Secretary of State, William Henry Seward, in the purchase of the State of Alaska from Russia. They promptly nicknamed the purchse “Seward Folly or Seward Ice Box”. The “Seward Folly” would later turn out to be “the greatest diplomatic achievements of the age”. It took the effort of the media for Americans to appreciate what Seward did. Detractors abused and harangued him for purchasing the 49th state of the Union at $7.2million. They did not see what he foresaw and didn’t care a hoot what of benefit that was to America. They were all concerned about the cost. Today as the largest state in the US- though parsely populated - Alaska offers the US a “diverse terrain of open spaces, mountains, forests with abundant wildlife”, and it is a destination for outdoor activities like skiing, mountain biking, kayaking etc. Like Americans who only appreciated Seward with the benefit of hindsight, Obiano’s day of glory is nigh.