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Breaking the Airport Jinx in Bauchi

| June 3, 2012 More

Governor  Isa Yuguda

Recently, the Bauchi State Government led by the state’s director–general Projects, Aliyu Jibrin took some journalists to monitor construction work at the Bauchi International Airport. Segun Awofadeji was   there and captures efforts by the administration to give the state a befitting airport

Since the state’s creation in 1976, Bauchi State, which prides itself as the “Pearl of Tourism” is yet to have an airport befitting its status, not only as a haven of tourism in Nigeria, but also as a gateway to the north-east geopolitical zone of the country. The Murtala/Obasanjo military administration planned to build an airport, which the then government wanted to use to honour the first and the only Prime Minister of the country, the late Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. But it fell through.

Attempts by subsequent administrations at the federal level to give Bauchi an airport were also unsuccessful. Even the Alhaji Shehu Shagari administration awarded a contract for the construction of the airport. But like what happened in the administration before, this also never went beyond the conception stage.

Determined to boost tourism as well as the state’s economic base, Isa Yuguda, the state governor, recently signed a N7.9 billion contract for the construction of a modern international airport which was in tandem with the administration’s campaign promise.

The state director-general in charge of Projects, Aliyu Jibrin told newsmen that about 15 companies applied for the execution of the project, but the State Executive Council, after the due process unit finally approved the bid submitted by Triacta Construction Company Nigeria Limited, signed a contract agreement to complete an airport within 28 months.

During the visit by journalists, the terminal building, control tower, fire station and some administrative blocks including a 3.4 kilometre runway were under construction.

Prior to the award of contract, Yuguda, as Nigeria’s Aviation minister, had made frantic efforts to have an international airport built in Bauchi, his state capital. Sadly, in spite of his zeal and best effort, that dream could not be accomplished. But such thoughts have been banished with the massive construction work going on at the site.

While answering a reporter’s question on how the project was being funded, Aliyu said that “notwithstanding what we get from the federation account and the financial problems bedevilling the country, the governor Yuguda-led administration was quite ready for this project and even before making a public pronouncement on it, the money for the project was already in an account in one of the banks.”

He added, “Just like the governor had mentioned during his many interactions with the media on this project, the viability of this world-class airport, had adequately been addressed by the resolve of the government to build and operate an International Standard Fire Training School that would be the first of its kind in West Africa.

“For your information, there is only one Fire Training School in the whole of Africa which is situated in South Africa, and for one to get a slot in that school you a need six months waiting period even after paying the fee of $5000 per participant,” he stated.
The director-general also explained that the government placed a high premium on developing the tourism sector, which according to Jibrin “has a lot of potential for wealth creation and revenue generation as well as foreign exchange earnings.

“Apart from Yankari Game Reserve, there are many other tourist attractions in the state which we are working to harness and promote to compete well with many international sites.”
With these in place, the lost tourism potential of the state would draw tourists and thereby boost the economic viability of the airport. While explaining that the various economic benefits to be derived from the airport when completed would include the provision of jobs to the community, he added that savings in time and money would be added advantages. 

He said to achieve its set goal, the government, apart from working with relevant agencies in this direction, had also put in place a strong project monitoring committee that would oversee the progress of the project. The committee is led by the governor who gets first hand progress reports on the project. 

During the signing of the contract, the executive director of Triacta Construction Company Nigeria Limited, Alie Abu Farhat, had assured of the timely completion of the project in line with the contract agreement. Alie added that Triacta has been a “very good friend” of Bauchi State in project execution and the occasion marked yet another milestone towards the manifestation of rapid development in the state.

Fielding questions from newsmen shortly before the occasion, Alie promised that host communities would be given ample opportunities to enjoy certain development projects like roads and water, among others.

Presently, people coming in and out of the state make do with the airstrip in Bauchi, the state capital, which was built during the First Republic. This was in use until shortly before the last general election in the country when a near disaster forced the federal government, through the aviation regulatory body, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, to shut it down.

The airplane carrying the vice-presidential candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Mr Fola Adeola, who was in Bauchi for the presidential campaign of the party in the state, hit some sheep which had strayed unto the airstrip’s runway. Several concerns were raised by the authorities, including lack of safety equipment, perimeter fencing, fire fighting equipment, among others, at the airstrip then.

Following the closure of the airstrip, people coming and leaving the state through air transport had to make do with airports in neighbouring Plateau and Gombe States, which costs extra. But in a bid to boost tourism and ease air transportation to and from Bauchi, the Yuguda administration, decided to renovate the closed airstrip. It awarded a contract for the complete overhaul of the airstrip in August 2010, with a 70 per cent down payment given to the contractor to boost speedy completion of the project.

The contractor, however, collected the amount and abandoned work at the airstrip. This forced the state Ministry of Works to promptly take over the renovation job and complete it through direct labour. At the end of the whole exercise, the government had expended N290 million on the renovation of the airstrip with a perimeter fence, fire fighting equipment and raising the height of the control tower. 
This was in addition to the overhaul of the 2.5 kilometre runway. The airstrip was inaugurated on February 13.

Category: Bauchi State News

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