By Tina Akinam
Plans by the Jigawa administration to add an airport to its ongoing infrastructural development schemes stirs controversy on whether Governor Sule Lamido is chewing more than he can swallow.
No doubt, many critics of Governor Sule Lamido inJigawaStatewould have been peeved at the endorsement of the administration’s development efforts by President Goodluck Jonathan.
President Jonathan was, however, not given in to the criticisms.
“I am impressed with what I have seen in your state judging from the quality of projects that the PDP led administration has executed in the state in the past five years, I am confident,” Jonathan said at a brief ceremony where he laid the foundation stone for the N7 billion airport located at Gidan Bawa village, which is about seven kilometers away from Dutse, the state capital.
The proposed airport when completed would be another dimension to the progressive changes that have characterized the Dutse landscape since the advent of the Lamido administration five years ago.
Indeed, the on-going transformation in the state has especially delighted people who knew the state before the coming of Governor Lamido.
Lamido, they claim, has practically built from scratch social infrastructural amenities like water, rural electricity, schools, roads, urban housing structures, teaching hospitals and other standard structures befitting for a state capital.
Irrespective of the increasingly cosmopolitan outlook many still question the priority being given the airport by the administration.
One notable argument against the airport is that it would swallow up the state’s internally generated revenue and the federal allocation.
Another argument being articulated is that such a project would be absurd because there is no evidence of the economic variables that would make the project viable and notably, the absence of a growing middle class in the state.
One prominent critic of the Lamido administration, Faruk Adamu Aliyu who lost at the last gubernatorial election under the Congress for Progressive Charge (CPC) did not see the Jigawa state airport project as necessary at this time.
He argued that the state needs education more than an airport arguing that it would be better to build another university instead of the airport.
Speaking during the CPC congress in Kazaure recently, he said “Jigawa state is in dire need of investment in education and healthcare, which would have direct impact on the lives of the people rather than the airport, which would benefit less than one per cent of the people”.
Aliyu, who was a minority leader in the House of representatives between 2003-2007 said that the decision of the Governor to construct an airport in Jigawa is a misplacement of policy, adding that with Kano having an international airport and being only 100 km away from Dutse, there should have been no need to venture in to that kind of project.
“In Kano KLM that has been operating for the last 70 years has suspended its operation because of slow-down in business. What economic sense does it make for you to have an airport in Jigawa, Gombe, Bauchi?”, he said.
The former CPC gubernatorial candidate then alleged that the airport project was wrong because it is targeted at providing an enabling avenue to siphon public funds.
He said: “There are better things to do with the state’s meager resources rather than to construct an airport or a television station at this critical time that is why I condemn the idea of building an airport in Jigawa because I am yet to see that as development at all”.
Another critic who feels the airport is not necessary; a former member of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Nasiru Dantiye said an airport project is not one of those things that attract investors to a state.
“I have not seen where airport will help the economy when other infrastructure have not been put in place. Jigawa State is 80 percent an agrarian society, the PDP government has not provided essential agricultural implements nor agro-chemicals as well as markets for the produce, why spending over N7 billion naira to build an airport.
He further cited that Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA) which is the first airport inWest Africais now a shadow of its self because only few airplanes fly there.
Unperturbed by the critics, Governor Lamido, who is certainly not an internet nor newspaper political celebrity, has remained focused on his plans.
Airport to boost economy — Lamido
Speaking through his Director of Press, Umar Kyari, Lamido said the proposed airport was an attempt by the administration to boost the economic activities of the state.
According to him, the airport would also go a long way in attracting more investors, based on the World Bank’s report which described Jigawa as an investment haven because of the prevailing peace in the state.
He noted that Katsina, Gombe and Kebbi which were created out of Kaduna, Bauchi and Sokoto states respectively have built their own airports which have opened up commercial activities in their state, adding that the case of Jigawa state will not be a different story.
Interestingly, before the president’s visit, the contract for the Dutse International Airport had been awarded to two construction companies; namely Dantata and Sawoe Nigeria Limited which would the construction of runways at the cost of N4.9billion and 2.5km access road to the airport at the cost of N699m.
The second company CGC Nigeria Limited will handle the contract for the construction of a terminal building and a parking lots at the cost of N1.212bn.
The project according to the state government will be completed within a year, perhaps in time for another presidential visit.