Bayelsa State International Airport is certainly one of the most capital-intensive projects embarked on by the Restoration Administration. For reasons that are quite obvious, the project is so dear to the heart of the former Governor, Senator Henry Seriake Dickson, who has the unwavering conviction that the airport is pivotal to the state’s striving to become a major centre of economic activity in the entire South-South geopolitical zone of Nigeria.
Globally, airports are known to play a huge role as a foreign exchange earner including job creation and poverty reduction. Far from being just a means of transportation around the world, it is a catalyst of economic development. With specific reference to the Bayelsa International Airport, hopes are rising that it would serve as a hub to connect all the South-South States and the landlocked South-eastern states.
There is no iota of reservation that the airport will open up a completely fresh economic opportunities and positively turn around the economic fortunes of our oil-rich State.
Ostensibly, when the airport commences flight operations, it will foster regional integration and socio-economic development as earlier contemplated by the Braced Commission.
It will be recalled that in May, 2012, Senator Seriake Dickson attended the Braced summit held on Ababa, to chart the pathway for economic recovery, development and prosperity in the region as the major hub of the petroleum and gas industry in the country. The airport facility is designed to fulfil those long-term aspirations.
With a 3.5km runway that only two first generation airports in the country can currently boast of, the Bayelsa International airport can guarantee the landing of the largest class of aircraft from any part of the world, and this is considered an added advantage which makes it a choice destination for goods air bound to parts of the Niger Delta and the eastern heartland.
A fully operational Bayelsa International Cargo Airport will open up direct employment opportunities for young Bayelsans, especially the graduates with the relevant or requisite qualifications in areas such as: flight Attendants, concessionaires, air Traffic Controllers, airport Engineer and airport Planner
Other core personnel will be required in the areas of TSA/TSO Airport Security Members, air Marshal, airframe/Powerplant Mechanics, baggage handlers and airline Pilots among others.
Speaking in this vein to journalists after a media tour of the airport last year, the former Bayelsa State Commissioner for Information, Hon. Daniel Iworiso-Markson, said the airport would create massive job opportunities for Bayelsans and would be a leading investment destination as well as a hub for business when it becomes fully operational. According Iworiso-Markson, the airport is one of the legacy projects that will change the economic fortunes of the state.
Without doubt, the airport will also boost the economy of the state by creating opportunities for local businesses like warehousing, transportation, and investments in the hospitality industry and the tourism sector. It will make Bayelsa State a muster point for goods to be exported, and at the same time, a clearing point for imported goods, which in the long run will have a positive effect on local prices of goods.
Expectedly, the airport will boost the operations of the multi-national oil companies doing business in the state. In fact, the oil companies will find the airport as a critical asset to leverage on for airlifting personnel and materials to and from their main operational headquarters located outside the shores of Bayelsa State.
Besides the rapid infrastructural development and conurbation it will engender within the cluster of communities around the aviation facility, the airport would attract hordes of investors from within and outside the state to the area, thereby stimulating and boosting socio-economic activities in the operational area.
Suffice it to say that being a State Government facility, it will generate income for the state, even as the expected commencement of flight operations at the airport would mark the end of Bayelsans having to travel by road to the Port Harcourt to take flight to Abuja, Lagos and elsewhere in the country or outside.
As we inch towards the licensing and operation of the airport, it is necessary to urge the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to expedite action to ensure the full, unimpeded operation of the facility.
The airport as a major transit point in the emerging economic configuration of the state is the Agge Deep Seaport in Ekeremor Local Government Area of the state. Moreover, the Bayelsa West Senatorial Road project is key to the crystallization of this vision because it would serve as the conveyor belt for end-to-end movement or haulage of goods and heavy-duty equipment. This will require more commitment from the Bayelsa State Government finish strong with its Restoration Agenda for the state. The administration actually finished stronger than anticipated.
Former Governor Seriake Dickson deserves all the commendation for demonstrating the uncommon political will to come this far with a project many leaders in his shoes would have simply shuddered at, given the prohibitive cost involved in the midst of competing needs of the people. As a true leader with the heart for bequeathing an enduring legacy of infrastructure to the state on all fronts, Senator Dickson saw that the developmental dynamics of the State can only be complete with an airport in its grid of infrastructure, and he had run with the vision from the start to the finishing line.
The airport is a testament of the commitment and dedication of the Senator Seriake Dickson to open up the state and showcase its huge, untapped potentials. If there is any better definition of good governance than this, I am yet to be told.
Human & Environmental Rights Dynamic Advocacy Development Initiative, Herdadi.