Following the landing of the first aircraft on Saturday, the federal government has promised support to the Ekiti state agro-allied passenger international airport towards the socio-economic development of the state.
The first aircraft, marked NAF939 and piloted by Flight Lieutenant E.A. Balogun, landed at the airport’s runway at exactly 10.20 am amidst cheers and excitement by eminent guests, government officials and members of the public who came to witness the historic occasion.
Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, who performed the inauguration of the airport, located along Ado-Ijan road was among the personalities on board of the aircraft which flew all the way from Abuja to make the historic landing on Ekiti soil.
Speaking, the outgoing Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, who could not hide his joy expressed satisfaction that the project eventually saw the light of the day ten years after its conception during his first administration in 2012.
Fayemi said the inauguration of the airport was in fulfilment of his promise to continue to work for the people of the state who elected him to his very last day in office saying the project saw the light of the day despite the very limited resources available to the state.
The Governor noted that his administration defied the challenges of COVID-19 which affected global, national and state economies to ensure that the dream of the airport became a reality which culminated in the test landing of the first flight on his last day in office.
Going down memory lane, the Governor recalled that the move to start the project began during his first tenure in 2012 with a Committee on the Viability of the Airport led by a legal luminary, Aare Babalola, raised by his then administration noting that the Committee submitted its report in 2012.
According to him, his first administration through the State Executive Council considered and approved the report submitted which was accommodated in its plan for the 2013-2015 Medium Term Sector Strategy but the plan was halted by his exit from office after the 2014 governorship election which placed the project on suspension.
The Governor said his successor in office, Ayo Fayose, embraced the idea to continue with the project but it couldn’t see the light of day until his tenure ended in 2018.
“As a government that adheres strictly to the rule of law with unwavering respect for the rights of our people, we made several appeals to communities affected for enumeration of their farmlands to ensure commensurate monetary compensation is paid on their crops.
“To this end, a total of 669 claimants were duly compensated out of those that presented themselves for the exercise. We acquired 4,017 hectares of land from nine communities: Ago Aduloju, Aso Ayegunle, Bolorunduro, Igbogun, Araromi, Obbo, Afao, Orun, Igbemo and Ijan covering three local government areas in the state,” he said.
The Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika announced that the Federal Government would site a cargo facility at the airport, describing the Ekiti Airport as “an extremely very important project” which would turn facilitate the import and export of goods and commodities.
He added, “I use to make an assertion, that a one-mile-long road leads to nowhere but a one-mile runway leads to everywhere. You see, I came here today(Saturday) through the runway of this airport provided by Governor Fayemi. There is a future with this project, market and trade can drive everybody here.
“I was at ABUAD, I saw the university, the farm, the industrial park and the hospital. If there is an airport here, it will connect people to this facility and reduce foreign medical tourism. Airports are by no means the best catalysts for the economic growth of any state or nation.
“35 per cent of global trade by value is moved through airports and $18.6 billion of cargo is moved daily through air transportation. The wealthy among you should take to agriculture for example and begin to produce things that you will export to other parts of the world.
“You can be land-locked but you cannot be sky-locked. We can all see the importance of having a facility like this. Thank you Mr Governor, you have provided this facility for the people of Ekiti State; they should own it, they should own it.”
In his address, Mr Zhang Zichen, the Chairman of China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), which handled the project, praised Governor Fayemi for the vision which he said would change the face of the state economy.
Zichen explained that the airport is not just a project but “the engine of the economy of the state” and said it would open up Ekiti to more development and investment to the benefit of the state and business community.