The newly inaugurated Ekiti Airport will open up the state to partake actively in global commerce and tourism, if fully harnessed and managed, Hadi Sirika, the Minister of Aviation, has said.
Mr Sirika, who performed the official inauguration of the airport, was among the personalities on board of the aircraft, which flew all the way from Abuja to make the historic landing on Ekiti soil.
However, the project was a dream come true for the people of Ekiti as the State Agro-Allied International Airport, Ado-Ekiti, was inaugurated for public use, shortly after the first aircraft landed at the facility on Saturday.
With its inauguration and landing of the first flight, Ekiti has joined the elite club of states in Nigeria that could boast of functional airport, which is expected to boost export of agricultural produce, service educational and health institutions as well as abundant tourism potential in the state.
The first aircraft, ATR 42 Nigeria Air Force plane piloted by E.A. Balogun, a flight lieutenant, landed at the airport’s runway at exactly 10.20 a.m. amidst cheers and excitement by eminent guests, government officials and members of the public who came to witness the historic occasion.
Shortly after the plane landed and taxied to the tarmac, the excited crowd of residents and guests were seen taken pictures of the moving aircraft and enthusiastically welcomed the Aviation Minister and officials of the agencies, who disembarked from the aircraft.
Mr Sirika announced to the excited audience that the federal ederal government vernment would site a cargo facility at the airport.
He described the Ekiti Airport as “an extremely very important project” which would in turn facilitate import and export of goods and commodities.”
The minister recalled that when he was on the site for groundbreaking in October 2019, there were divergent views as to the viability of the project, saying airports are being used as “one-city nation-states in the world” to drive their economy.
According to him, “I use to make an assertion, that one mile long road leads to nowhere, but one mile runway leads to everywhere.
“You see, I came here today through the runway of this airport provided by Gov. Fayemi. There is 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, ” he said.
The minister said that with an airport here, it would connect people to this facility and reduce foreign medical tourism.
“Airports are by no means the best catalysts for economic growth of any state or nation.
“35 per cent of global trade by value is moved through airports and 18.6 dollar 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 be exported 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; they should own it,” Mr Sirika said.
An excited outgoing Governor, Kayode Fayemi, who could not hide his joy, said: “My job is done”.
Mr Fayemi expressed satisfaction that the project eventually saw the light of the day 10 years after its conception during his first administration in 2012.
A fulfilled Mr Fayemi said: “My job is done, Ekiti Kete,” and this drew a thunderous applause from the crowd that thronged the tarmac to be part of the occasion.
He also used the occasion to give an assurance to the people of the state that the federal roads that now in dilapidated condition would be given attention to bring relief to their users and complement the newly inaugurated airport project.
“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,” Mr Fayemi said.
Earlier, in his remarks, Zhang Zichen, the Chairman, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), which handled the project, praised Mr Fayemi for the vision which would change the face of the state economy.
Mr Zichen explained that the airport was not just a project, but “the engine of the economy of the state” .
He said that it would open up Ekiti to more development and investment to the benefit of the state and business community.
The CCECC chief, describing the airport as a “landmark project”, said it was among notable projects completed by his corporation.
He commended the Aviation Minister for being part of history and making the airport a reality.