Ebonyi State, before 2015, had been a victim of condescension in the hands of some Nigerians. The state was seen and cited to be a good example of “nothing is happening” with minute prospects. However, the inception of the Divine Mandate administration, headed by Governor David Nweze Umahi, turned the tide. The audacious move to build an international airport in the state, putting comparatively lean resources in view, bespeaks a leader who dares to dream big. The airport is to be both human and cargo-enabled. In the face of reservations about the relevance of this project in some quarters, it is salient to reiterate how the state would be opened up to the next level.
First, the Ebonyi International Airport positions the state to attract investments domestically and internationally. The brick wall of investors mulling over how to quickly bring in raw materials to the state for production purposes and record high output in their businesses, would be broken. Also, way for seamless distribution of their products across the country and exportation to target markets around the globe would be paved. Rather than stop by at Enugu every single time on flights, valuable time can be saved and mobility eased greatly. Abakaliki would have a direct access to diverse parts of the globe, enhancing its investment profile as a rapidly growing city in Africa. The state’s internally generated revenue is bound to surge via taxes and land sale.
Second, the airport would boost agricultural returns in the state. Ebonyi is one of the agrarian states in Nigeria. Reputation of her quality Abakaliki rice precedes her. Presently, this commodity enjoys nationwide acceptance and consumption. Rather than rice farmers limiting their market to Nigeria and a few neighbouring African countries, their produce can be conveyed in cargos to American and European markets for business. Resulting financial gains can fund mechanization of rice farming for increased productivity. Other agricultural products stand to enjoy this exposure as well.
Lastly, the airport can push up employment in Ebonyi when it becomes functional. Qualified Ebonyians could be afforded preference in filling various roles as airport staff. The vacancies will run into hundreds. Commuting passengers to and from the airport would require services of taxi drivers and tricycle (keke) drivers, creating considerable blue-collar jobs. Restaurants, stores, supermarkets and hotels are likely to spring up nearby to service the airport’s human traffic.
Apparently, the initiative of an international airport is not redundant as naysayers make it seem. It’s a win for the state government and people of Ebonyi State. The economic harvest to come would be bountiful. From dual investments, agricultural exportation visibility to bettering employment, there is much to reap. Expressed commitment of Minister Hadi Sirika of Aviation earlier and President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential banquet in Abakaliki recently to assist in the 70 per cent ready airport’s completion soonest is reinvigorating. Indeed, Engr. Umahi has blended engineering, foresight and governance. Ebonyi’s clout is no longer in doubt.