The Bayelsa State Government insisted yesterday that its multi-billion naira international cargo airport will be ready by the end of August this year, but noted that the date of its inauguration will be determined by President Muhammadu Buhari, who is expected to officially declare the facility open.
Commissioner of Works in the state, Mr Lawrence Erujakpor, told journalists during an inspection that the government was working closely with the contractors to ensure that the 3.5 kilometre runway airport will start receiving flights before commissioning.
However, he said the August 27 date initially released to the media was not sacrosanct, stressing that Governor Seriake Dickson and the President would have to agree on a date which is convenient to both leaders.
The government said that the runway, arguably the longest in the country, was sand-filled to a height of 12.5 ft by 200 metres and would welcome direct flights to and fro the airport from most parts of the world.
Contractors were seen putting finishing touches to some facilities at the airport, including the terminal building, control tower, hangar, police station and fire bay at the airport wholly funded by the Bayelsa government during the tour.
Erujakpor told journalists that aside from providing job opportunities for the teeming youths and professionals in the state, the government intended to make the airport a business hub for foreign investors, especially those who do business in the Niger Delta.
“Our target is to complete everything by the end of August and you can see that we are already on that path. We are just making a few changes to conform with international standards. The control tower is almost set.
“After now we will have the main control cabin, which is an imported panel and we will just fix it. The fire bay is ready. For the car park, asphalt will start coming in by Thursday and they have about 38,000 square metres to lay and we are making a projection of about 6,000 square metres per day because they have resources now.
“The power house is already constructed. The marking of the runway has started, meaning that we are ready to receive flights into the airport. We are making provision for airfield lighting, so that planes can land at night,”, Erujakpo said.
On why Bayelsa needs an airport, the Commissioner said people don’t like coming to Bayelsa because of the difficulty of access and exit, noting that with the airport, the challenge associated with movement of goods and services will be easier.
“Two, it has always been risky travelling by road to Port Harcourt, because sometimes you are on the road and the Mbiama market is blocked, you can’t go. Time is money for the investor. You can’t be on the road for two to three hours and you are unsure of what you will meet.
“This airport will serve the entire Gulf of Guinea, military hardware can also be kept here. So, that’s a plus for the military. Bayelsa has one of the biggest aquaculture farms in this axis and you cannot transport everything by road”, he added.
According to him, the airport would have a niche, since it will accommodate cargo, explaining that the facility will also host major airlines like Air China and South Africa Airways.