In opening up sub-national economies for growth, there are a number of parameters to ensure that the successes are not knee-jerk or short-lived. Much as states adopt different methods to suit their peculiar needs, development economists argue that among other things, growth is mostly achieved through expansion of the space for economic activities, with emphasis on freeing up markets and providing the environment to attract and keep private investments.
It was in keeping faith with this reasoning that the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki decided that if truly his vision to industrialise the state was to materialise and the successes sustained, there was need to leverage whatever arteries through which private investors access the state, especially the Benin Airport, from which high net-worth engage with their partners in the state.
The plan was to ensure that the Benin Airport becomes more viable and able to handle higher air passenger traffic. This line of thought was anchored on the need to upgrade the infrastructure so it could handle more activities, especially night operations, which will create the room for private investors to do business in the state.
Though a Federal Government facility, the state government’s intention to upgrade the Airport caused them to take part responsibility for the job, which culminated in expenses running into about N169 million to facilitate the revamp of the Airport while relevant Federal Government agencies provided needed infrastructure, among which are high-end air navigation equipment.
How the Plan was hatched
During a visit by top aviation actors in the country to the state in September 2017, Governor Obaseki was quick to relay his desire to improve infrastructure at the Airport and said as much to the delegation from the Federal Government, which had the mandate for aviation in the country.
The delegation included top officials of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA).
The then Managing Director of FAAN, Engr. SalehDunoma was with the Managing Director of NAMA, Capt. FolaAkinkuotu, both of whom Governor Godwin Obaseki vehemently convinced on the need to strengthen partnership to refurbish the airport after the trio inspected facilities at the Benin Airport.
Governor Obaseki said his administration would work with FAAN and NAMA to develop a plan that ensures the Airport space was expanded. He noted that state intends to effectively utilise assets and resources within the state for the benefit of the people, which necessitated the inspection tour of the Benin Airport.
According to him, “We have approached the Federal Authority to kindly come to our aid regarding the airport. The plan is to first improve the facilities in this airport and ensure that we have night landing facilities. This will enable the airport embark on 24 hours operation. With more airplanes coming in, we will see a lot more passenger traffic coming into our state.”
The MD of FAAN, Dunoma, noted that though the Federal Government had the responsibility to improve facilities at the Benin Airport, he was excited by the commitment coming from the Edo State government to upgrade the airport.
He said. “I want to thank the governor for coming to our aid and with his assistance we can do a lot more. We have inspected the facilities here and we will submit a report on what we need to do to improve the safety and facilities at this Airport.”
Capt. Akinkuotu of NAMA commended the joint effort being made both by the state and Federal Government on the upgrade, noting that the approach was the way to go to drive meaningful development across the country. He said the agency would collaborate with the Edo State government to ensure passengers do not only feel safe, but have good reasons to fly to the Benin Airport.
He added, “We can’t but thank the Governor Obaseki for coming out to show support. The country belongs to all of us. He has demonstrated great leadership, and by working together, we can move the state forward.”
After the inspection, work commenced properly and the state government constructed three security watchtowers; supplied and built houses for 2 20KVA generators; provided 3 hiluxes to FAAN; facilitated the installation of CAT II Instrument Landing System/Distance measuring equipment by NAMA.
The Federal Government through Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NIMET) provided Thunder and Lighting System; Met Enclosure and Secure Aviation Date Information System while FAAN provided Enhanced Simple Approach Landing System.
Vice President Osinbajo jets off from Benin at 7pm
One year after the inspection by the big wigs from the Federal Government, some of the equipment for night operations were installed and the Vice President, Prof. YemiOsinbajo did the honours of flying from the Airport at about 7pm, a development that was unheard of at the airport in the last couple of years.
Speaking after the number two citizen had taken off, Governor Obaseki, assured that the Benin Airport would commence full night-time flight operations after the installation of necessary facilities, which are being received in batches.
According to the governor, the landing facilities at the Benin Airport were already functioning which enabled the Vice President to depart Benin City through the Airport few minutes to 7pm on Thursday.
”We are expecting more night landing equipment to be installed at the Benin Airport especially the lights. The contractor has assured us that the lights will arrive before the end of this month, February. We will launch it and have our inaugural night flight to Benin City,” he said.
NIMET station, Agro-allied Cargo Terminal to follow – Aviation Minister
Last week, the Federal and Edo State Governments eventually commissioned night landing equipment at the Benin Airport, officially reviving night operations at the 63-year old Airport.
Minister of State for Aviation, Sen. HadiSirika, who was elated at the development, commended the doggedness and tenacity of Governor Godwin Obaseki in facilitating the commencement of night operations at the Airport.
“The operational capacity of the Benin City Airport has tremendously improved as we can now guarantee safe landing in reduced visibility and in bad weather condition. Aircraft can now land in Benin Airport at night. No more closure of the Airport by 6 pm.
“We have both ground and satellite-based equipment at the Airport in such a way that if the ground base equipment fails, the satellite base equipment will work to ensure safe landing at the Airport either in the day or at night,” the Minister said.
Speaking on further plans to maximise the use of the airport, Sen. Sirika said works have reached an advanced stage in building an Agro-allied Cargo Terminal at the Benin Airport, adding that the work on the civil structures has commenced with the support of Governor Obaseki.
“We are bringing a Cargo terminal to Benin to facilitate exportation of perishable agricultural products and other produce targeted at foreign markets.”
Noting that the Federal Ministry of Transportation through the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NIMET) has constructed and donated a meteorological station at the University of Benin (UNIBEN), he said, “The opening of the office is part of the effort of the Federal Government to boost transportation in Edo State, especially in terms of aviation and weather forecasting. The weather forecasting can also be used by farmers to provide information on when it is a suitable time for planting.”
On his part, Governor Obaseki said with the installation of the equipment and commencement of night landing facilities, the Airport can now compete with its peers across the world, commending the FAAN and NAMA, for their close working relationship with his administration for over a year and a half in ensuring the upgrade becomes a reality.
On the benefits of the upgrade to the State, Governor Obaseki said the development will transform the Benin Airport, noting, “The reason we insisted on upgrading facilities at the Benin Airport is that it is one of the five Airports with high passenger traffic in the country. With the facilities in place, we can now convince airlines to make night stop-over in the City to further increase passenger traffic to boost the state’s revenue base.”
The governor said equipment commissioned at the Airport include thunder and lightning system, Secure Aviation Data Information System (SADIS); Enhanced Simple Approach Lightening System, CAT II and Instrument Landing System (ILS)/Distance Measuring Equipment (DME).
Noting that the state facilitated the construction of two watchtowers to provide military officers with a vantage point for proper surveillance of the equipment and the airport, he said “All this equipment were put together by the officials of NIMET, FAAN, NAMA and Edo State Government. Two 20 KVA generators and plant house were built by the state government as well.”
The governor said his administration is making efforts to ensure the state grows economically, which would be made possible through infrastructural development.
AGMs, conferences, business meetings, ease of doing business gains
Aviation Security Consultant, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd) said that night operations provide immense economic opportunities for cities with such operations, as it opens up a new vista of businesses for the airlines operating from such airports and also the state’s local economy.
He hinted that Benin Airport was one of the few airports aside Lagos and Abuja airport with night operations, and with the commissioning of the facilities, there are prospects for economic boom in the state. Some of the benefit include hosting of conferences and Annual General Meetings by companies in the state, as a result of reduced cost for accommodation and other logistics. There is also the prospect of shows and concerts, wherein guests can easily leave the city by night as soon as the event wraps up. These pulls a lot of traffic to the state and increases spending in the local economy.