Daily Trust Editorial on Tuesday 8th November 2016
Our Attention has been drawn to the editorial published in Daily Trust of Tuesday 8th November, 2016, calling on Governor Samuel Ortom to shelve the construction of the Makurdi cargo airport.
While we appreciate the concern of the media house we think that the editorial has been based on gross misinformation about the Makurdi Cargo Airport.
The greatest misconception stems from the misinformation that the Samuel Ortom administration was going to fund or sink N38 billion into the construction of the said cargo airport.

The fact of the matter is that the project is a private sector initiative, undertaken under a public private partnership agreement.
According to the terms of the agreement, a consortium of several participants is going to pool together N32.3 billion for the project, which amounts to 85% equity. This is not a loan, while the state government is to provide the remaining N5.7 billion as it's own 15% equity contribution.

The arrangement is that the state's contribution to the project has been structured in such a way that it would not have to dip it's hands into its pocket to pay but would come from other sundry contributions including provision of land.

At the moment, the state Government has not paid one kobo on the project, and no appropriation for any expenditure has been made.
The basis for the editorial which presumed an expenditure of N38 billion by the state government on the project is therefore non -existent.

The argument that Makurdi has an existing airport which should be expanded to serve the purpose of a cargo airport indicates that the writers did little or no investigation on the matter.

If they did, they would have stumbled upon the opposition of military authorities to the use of facilities at the Airforce base in Makurdi for international cargo and other purposes.
When the current Benue State Governor was Supervising Aviation Minister, he held several meetings with the authorities to resolve the issues, but they were adamant that for security purposes the military Airport could not be used for international flights, be it cargo or otherwise.

Meanwhile, the Makurdi Cargo Airport under construction, as the first of it's kind in the West Africa sub-region has a capacity far beyond Benue State.
To therefore think that it's use would be confined to agricultural and other produce just within the state is myopic thinking, to say the least.
The entire country and the sub-region has been targeted as the catchment area for such an investment.

It therfore beats the imagination that rather than seeking to obtain adequate information that would enable it drum support for the laudable project, Daily Trust has joined the small band of pessimists suffering from short-sightedness.

The long and short term benefits of the cargo airport to North Central Nigeria and the West African sub-region include the following:
- enhanced exportation of farm produce
- improved transportation generally
- lifting of cargo and passengers
- employment and capacity building
- poverty alleviation
- lowering transport costs
- wealth creation and rural transformation
- trade hub for West Africa
- springing up of industries
- training of pilots
- training of aircraft engineers

Between now and 2020 when the project is billed to be completed the necessary advocacy for increased agricultural production and other facilities to enhance the necessary inputs to feed the cargo airport from its locality would have been put in place.
But even if the project cannot be completed, the government would have lost nothing by attempting a big leap forward through the organized private sector.

Tahav Agerzua
Special Adviser, Media and ICT.