ONLY incorrigible cynics may find it difficult to attest to the enormous history that was made last Friday in the Anambra Airport project. Not just because Gov. Willie Obiano, as he did in similar legacy projects, delivered on his promise to see that first flight landed in the airport on exactly the day he projected, the drums are rolling out, even after the test-running, in acclamation that such heritage that for several decades turned elusive to Anambra was brought to fruition eventually.
For over 40 years, Anambra (from old Anambra era) has grappled with the idea of having her own airport without success. Surprisingly on Friday, April 30, big commercial aeroplanes landed comfortably in her brand new airport cited in Umueri, Anambra East Local Council.
INDEED, what has emerged is a project that will ever make the state proud. Ndi Anambra will continue to walk tall among other Nigerians because the state has now been fully plotted on the national development map.
THE journey to the Anambra Airport has been as conflated, tumultuous and pranky as it has been exciting. First, it started at Oba in Idemili South Local Government Area from the historical debris of Uli-Amorka Airstrip of defunct Biafra Republic.
An appeal fund was launched during the Chief Jim Nwobodo-led administration of old Anambra State, and egregious amount was realised. But over 40 years down the line, nothing was heard of the project, from regimes to regimes, even after the creation of the new Anambra.
Not until Gov. Obiano arrived on the saddles and could not brook the slur his predecessors largely ignored or half-heartedly strived to strip on Anambra face at being mocked in the comity of Nigeria as a ‘wealthy’ state whose people fly from other states and enrich others’ airports.
TWO past administrations in current Anambra State, Chris Ngige’s and Peter Obi’s acquired parcels of land at the airport site but that was all they did, leaving vital preparatory works undone.
FROM the labyrinth, Gov. Obiano girded his loins, weathering cynicisms and skepticisms – even outright mudslinging – to muster crucial political will of returning to a project dreadfully abandoned , if circumvented by his predecessors.
That was how, in 2017, the journey to an Anambra Airport detoured to Umueri, with proven comparative cost advantage in ecological and technical factors such as a stable, expansive 1,000 hectares of land as opposed to the erosion-endemic Oba area.
In 2019, workers moved to site. Less than two years after, it has become a reality- almost in lightning speed. Of course, a disincentive that may come in negative corollary is that some people may forget that this was a journey that started in Oba over four decades ago– or 54 years if the mission to Uli Airstrip is included in the calculation.
LITTLE wonder that all roads led to Umueri that epoch making day , April 30, 2021,as well-meaning ndi Anambra from all walks of life lined up to catch a glimpse of first flights to land on their first airport, with those not capable of making it to site pouring into streets and highways to share in the moment.
From Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace Airline, Chief Allen Onyema to Chairman of Obijackson Group, Dr. Ernest Azudialu-Obiejesi and so many others, including traditional rulers, the academia, youth and market women, none wanted to miss the wind of new greatness that berthed on Anambra air space with the taxing of the first three aircraft, one after the other, to the terminals that unforgettable Friday.
WHILE none is dismissing reservations making the rounds among skeptics with a wave of the hand, it may be apposite to check out on little econometrics that make the airport project a fit child of its time.
Yes, some wonder how an airport should take precedence in Anambra’s scale of preference now. For people trapped in this utilitarian illogic, economic good scores the bull’s eye if and only if as many people as possible would participate.
Some argue that in a state where less than 20 per cent of its population fly airplanes, airport rings hollow. But this only stands elementary economics on its head.. And the reasons are not far-fetched.
FIRST, Anambra International Cargo Airport stands out as the most auspicious singular physical infrastructure capable of significantly catalysing commerce and the entire economy of the state for overall development.
Apart from calibrating the international trade interests of the entire Igbo land and beyond to new Olympian heights, it will in numerous ways key into ndi Anambra’s pedigree as a particularly air traveling business-oriented people and bring economic growth.
But it needs to be stated that air travel is a quicker and safer means of transportation, therefore, can never be an article of luxury with no multiplier effect on the general economy. This is where the connectivity of all sectors, which strategic businesses such as airport offer its location comes to play.
AN AIRPORT in Anambra will surely bring more federal presence here when aviation regulatory authorities such as Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), National Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO), Nigerian Immigration, Customs and others begin to set shop apart from ranking Anambra high on professional bodies’ radars when they shop for conference destinations.
Auto manufacturers and allied service providers will equally find a port here as ANAMCO and INNOSON did by establishing near Emene Airport in Enugu. Not only will it boost national integration, its multiplier effect will also be felt in recruitment of both skilled and non-skilled manpower from within the state as their first catchment area.
ANOTHER econometrics that balances Anambra Airport on the path of delivering returns on investment earlier than projected is the fact that it is not built to be a run-of-the-mill.
Apart from being designed to host five-star hotels and aircraft servicing and maintenance depot, it will also serve as an aviation rally of sort, a repairs hub, refueling hub, aircraft maintenance, fuel dump where aircrafts across Nigeria and beyond could come for servicing.
If other airports, most of which run just flight operations are delivering returns, Anambra Airport surely will. In fact, it shows Gov. Obiano’s predilection for seeing tomorrow while it is yet today.
The facility has placed Anambra on much morehigher competitive cutting edge. It has no reason not to deliver even more. But for all these permutations to fall into one shape with the governor’s development vision, there will be no room for foundling – especially among those with vital business goodwill in commanding heights of global and national economy.
THEREFORE, there is an unassailable challenge on natives to play good hosts to their new ‘neighbour’ that has come to launch their community on world map. This is where the call on Anambra transport and haulage tycoons should be loud if not louder.
APART from giving them, on a platter, an avenue of proving to the world that they were wrongly accused as brains behind the plots and counterplots that botched the failed Oba Airport, buying into the new Anambra Airport would also be their own way of answering akulueuno homebound investment clarion, which wealthy Anambra businessmen from many sectors have heeded the call to invest and create jobs in their homeland.
They can do this seamlessly by partnering government either by modular means to ensure that aspects of the project still receiving finishing touches are not hampered by paucity of funds or by proxy investments. They can again do so through donations and patronising some of the services on offer at the complex, for instance, installing transport bays and even hangers.
INVESTMENTS are still calling for their attention in the areas of hotels, transport routes, boulevards in and out of the airport, leading into town up to the two commercial hubs of Onitsha, Nnewi and Awka.
ANYONE doubting these cold calculations should take a look at where Ikeja Airport has brought areas proxy to it in Lagos in just 30 years. Ejigbo Estate to Mangoro and Ajao Estates, are now hub of the businesses, offices and the busiest road traffic in Lagos, all because of the airport in the area.
THIS is why we call on the Chiscos, the Dan Dollars, the Ekene Dili Chukwus, the Young Shall Grows and G. U. O Motors as well as other brands that have the financial war chest to key into this new development matrix envisioned for Anambra State by Gov. Obiano.
It is also worthwhile to commend illustrous son of Anambra State and CEO of Air Peace, Chief Allen Onyema for keying into the project and urge other natives to do same. But we do not stop here. We also call for investment in light rail as a model of economic diversification.