Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, on Friday, laid the foundation for the Ekiti Airport, signalling the commencement of work on the agro -allied cargo airport.
The ground breaking ceremony was jointly performed by the governor and the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika.
According to the governor, when completed, the airport will help to transport large number of cash crops from the proposed special Agriculture Processing zone (SAPZ) to different destination and secure early-to –market advantage for the state’s comprehensive agricultural and industrial development plans.
He revealed that the construction of the airport which will sit on roughly 4,000 acres of land, is being supported by the Federal Government, African Development Bank (AfDB) and Africa Export Import Bank.
He noted that transportation network is a key driver of economic growth, adding that the state was bound to witness rapid economic growth, owing to the construction of the airport and the Lagos-Kano Rail line which will pass through Ekiti.
Fayemi disclosed that the airport project ideawas first mooted in his first term in office, when he set up a committee headed by Aare Afe Babalola,(SAN) which came up with a comprehensive report supporting why Ekiti should have its own airport, adding that the airport should be one that opens our state up mainly for the promotion of our agricultural, tourism and education endowment.”
The governor disclosed that he had secured support of some major development partners including Africa Development Bank and Africa Export Import Bank to help finance the project which would be fully operational in the next 24 months.
“We have since fine-tuned the outcome of Aare Afe Babalola’s committee report and also cracked the main bone of contention of the airport, which was funding for the project. Having conceptualize the airport as part of our integrated development strategy for Ekiti State, our development partners, African Development Bank and the Africa Export/Import Bank saw both the short term and the long term justification for this airport and decided to support it.
“The Federal Government as we also heard from the Honourable Minister, enthusiastically lend their support for the airport by assisting not only with its designation as a Cargo Airport but also approving in very short space of time all of the necessary materials that we needed in order to formally commence the operations,” the governor noted.
He expressed immense gratitude to President Muhammadu Buhari for supporting the airport project in the state through his commitment and that of the Federal Ministry of Aviation.
“We received the letter of approval on May 28, 2019 and the process to kick start the Ekiti Cargo airport began immediately, series of meetings were held and all stakeholders agreed that the construction would facilitate the linkage of our state to global trading places.
“The size of the airport cover an area of about 4000acres”, said Fayemi, who explained that all his efforts at developing the state was aimed at opening the frontiers to global outreach that would bring about development yet to be witnessed in any part of the country.
He added that the airport project would assist the state in its quest to make it a destination for medical tourism considering the intimidating facility available at the Afe Babalola University Teaching Hospital, Ado-Ekiti.
“As government desirous of building an Ekiti that would serve both the present and the future generation, it is pertinent for us to think and act ahead. There is an urgency of now in quest to open the frontiers of our state to global outreach.
“This project helps us to achieve this mission maximally, the project fits very well with our interest in Ekiti becoming a destination for medical tourism with the excellent work already being done by the Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti.
“It will also synergize with our knowledge zone, smart city initiative and agriculture technology plant of our government, by the time the knowledge zone, the airport, the agric processing project and the ring road are completed with extension of the Lagos-Kano standard gauge rail line through Ekiti, we would no doubt have seen the realization of the Ekiti state of our dream.” He explained.
In his remarks, the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika said Ekiti was well positioned in the committee of state in Nigeria to create wealth through agriculture, trade and knowledge zone.
“The Federal Government of Nigeria will partner in this project and support this project especially the cargo side of it because we believe that with the silos that we have there, with the green land, with the vegetation, with the nature, with the natural geography of Ekiti, it is very good candidate to produce agricultural product for export.
“By God given, by design, by providence, Ekiti is at the centre of Nigeria, not too far to the south with too much rain, not too far to the north with the dry land. The per capital of Ekiti of about N1,160 per head says a lot, it tells us the capacity, capability and ability of this state to create wealth, this is very important and we will support this venture.
Sirika commended the vision of the state government to establish knowledge economy which he described as mother of all economy without which no one can achieve any meaningful development.
A legal icon and the founder of Afe Babalola University, Aare Afe Babalola congratulated and commended Governor Fayemi who has taken a decisive step towards realizing the dreams of the founding fathers by turning of the sod for an airport, reviving education and creating a knowledge zone.
Aare Babalola said his university was already aligning with the developmental stride of Fayemi administration by embarking on an industrial park where no fewer that 124 industries will operate bringing more jobs for Ekiti people.