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Fdi: Asaba Airport as case study – 4

By Dele Sobowale

That was the advice of thousands of parents to their sons at the beginning of the founding fathers of  the “expatriates” who conquered the vast country which we now know as the United States of America. Then, as now, there were restraining hands, urging people not to go and exploit the opportunities which the new frontiers presented.

Many of those who ventured forth became rich beyond their wildest dreams.  The early Pilgrims had landed and settled on the East Coast of America, without realizing that the vast agricultural and mineral deposits that were later to make America great were west of their own  territory.

Today, states like California, Texas, Ohio and Michigan provide the backbone of industrial output while the “Midwest” states account for the agricultural output. The sooner “Real Deltans” move to acquire landed properties in Asaba and its environs, the better for them. Years from now their kids will blame them for “missing the flight” – which is what the investment opportunities in Asaba  will become in the future.

Today, in Nigeria’s Delta State, anyone seeking for investment opportunities should ‘Go to Asaba”. If there is one airport in Nigeria which can produce the next batch of multi-millionaires, or more, it is that airport. It is already a winner even before being commissioned.

And why is it?  It is the ideal air gateway between Lagos and the Southeast and Southsouth – the zone accounting for close to 75% of Nigeria’s domestic trade. No other airport in the region or zone comes close.

Already, domestic and foreign enterprises have indicated interest. One multi-national  company has acquired land; after paying exorbitant price for what was, until recently, “bush”. The other, a five star Nigerian hotel, wanting to become a chain, is also racing to obtain a strong foothold.

The potential winners are on the move; the ultimate losers are still quibbling about irrelevant matters. But, in order to assist all possible stakeholders to decide what to do about this airport, permit me to finish my fact finding report. Again, I challenge anyone who has contrary evidence to provide them for our readers to decide for themselves.

It was already confirmed that, contrary to widespread rummour, the total cost is estimated at under $30 billion for an international airport; when only a runway, at Abuja, was awarded for $69 billion.

More Facts About The Asaba International Airport

With the conversion from a domestic airport capable of accommodating, at best, only Boeing 737 size crafts, to one which can handle any size of aircraft, the runway had to be lengthened. Today Asaba In ternational Airport, with 3.4 kilometres of runway is the second longest in Nigeria; the Murtala Mohammed Airport with 4.2 kilometres being the longest.

To make the extension, not only in length but in width possible more land had to be cleared to allow for the wider wing span of bigger crafts as well. That required two operations   First, called for the removal of 3.7 to 4 million cubic metres of earth, plants and rocks from one part of the airport to provide acceptable international visibility to landing aircrafts.

The second called for using the same quantity of debris to fill a gully which would have created great erosion which would have threatened the airport and surrounding communities for miles around. A visit to the site will reveal hills as tall as six storey buildings which must be removed for safety of aircraft and passengers.

Unfortunately, photographs are not allowed at airports – for safety reasons. Otherwise, the point being made here would have been better made with one or two shots.  So, there no ant-hills as some have claimed; only millions of cubic metres of earth to be moved around the same airport.

For the sake of those who might not grasp the enormity of the task, 4 million cubic metres of earth spread one metre thick, will cover over 20 kilometres of road. Three contractors, each with 50 dump trucks have been working on it for over four months; virtually 24 hours a day. And, they have not finished removing the enormous amount of stuff.


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