By Anietie Akpan, The Guardian Newspaper
The new Cross River Obudu International Passenger and Cargo Airport will become operational with effect from next year just as the State Government claims to have paid N900 million compensation to affected land lord communities.
Speaking with some newsmen in Obudu recently, the Commissioner for Aviation, Dr. Jake Otu Enya said, “the major area of work is what you see going on now, that is the runway, and immediately that work is done, the next stage is for the contractor to be on site.
“You’ll recall that sometime last week, we opened our bid for the procurement of a contractor to come to site to do the real construction. So what we are doing here is the preliminary which is part of our own work as a State, in order to reduce the cost of the entire construction.
“The major assignment in an airport, not just here but all over the world, is the runway and the State in which we have reached is such that by the time the contractor comes in, he’s only out from here till the end. So basically, we are looking at the year 2021 for this airport to be completed and indeed, being functional or operational. So that’s our timeline for this.
“We acquired this area – about 1,500 hectares of land. The compensation for it has been paid to the five communities that own the land. We paid almost N900 million compensation which was approved by His Excellency and the State Executive Council. We have gone into the real work; we started by clearing this side.
“We have cleared the entire site, we’ve done the stomping, we’ve done the packing. Now, the work going on now is the runway – the cutting and filling of the runway. The runway itself is about 5.6km in length and a width of 1km. So it is our very key determination that we are going to succeed and deliver this airport in no distant time.
“As an international airport, it is not just for passengers, it is also for cargo. So, we estimate that there is no type of plane that cannot land here. That is the truth about it. Even the ones we’re procuring. We’ve procured Boeing 737, which is very okay for cargo and all of that. So, it can land here.
“This airport would serve the generality of Cross riverians and also the neighbouring states of Benue, Taraba, Imo, Ebonyi and the rest of them. Well, the process of procurement is completed. I assure you that we have paid and everything is done about it. We have two aircrafts on ground and we are only waiting for delivery to Cross River.”
On funding, he said, “Cross River state in the State we are, ordinarily we would not deliver. But behold, it is one of the greatest things we have in Cross River State that is the intellectual property of our boss – our Governor. He takes challenges and situations like this, this is where he knows how to showcase himself the best.
“Here, we’ve had some key capital projects from the beginning of his administration, but by the budget of 2021, the centerpiece of that budget is on humanity and also, few capital projects that would utilize the resources we have to definitely pursue them.
“If you look at the budget, the project like the Super Highway is no longer there which would have had the chunk of our finances. What we have, by our own internal sources and the little we still have in the federation account, we would definitely complete it. Because we carried out a thorough financial assessment of what it entails before we went into it.
“So we’re very confident that with the reduction in the number of capital projects in the 2021 budget, given also that Obudu International Passenger and Cargo airport took the lion share of capital provision, we’re quite confident that we would finish this airport.”
On the need for another airport when the State has one and a an airstrip, the Commissioner said, “the intention of His Excellency the Governor to definitely establish this is indeed to look inward, to ensure that Cross River State is taken to the highest level of industrialization and tourism. We’re all aware of the fact that in Cross River State, we do not only pride ourselves as the tourism headquarters of Nigeria, it is so – given the fact that even within here we have the tourist centre, that is the Obudu Ranch Resort which is indeed the best in the whole of Nigeria.
“Besides that it is his intention to utilize the potentials of this ranch resort to ensure that we have employment opportunities, we have the much needed revenue; particularly in a period when Cross River State is the least state in terms of the federation account.
“We occupy just second to the last on the table, given the fact that we have lost our oil wells, 76 oil wells to Akwa Ibom. And also the rich oil peninsular was also ceded to Cameroon by the Federal Government. These have brought us to this State that we are today. Internally, there is nowhere we can put our hands into because almost everything we have here is by other peasants and all that. So, it is indeed his intention to look inwards and at other sources we can generate the much needed revenue to turn our economy in the near future.”
Among the host communities for the international airport project, Okambi Development Association, a Community Development Organization (CDO) is currently in court with the State Government.
The CDO made up of Okambi sons and daughters dragged the Government to court over claims of shady compensation among other things.
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