By Uche Nworah
Very soon, just very soon, you will take off from Lagos, Abuja, P.H, Kano, Kaduna, London, New York, Beijing, Paris, Amsterdam etc and land in your fatherland, the land of the rising sun.
As you enjoy these amazing shots by James Eze of the control tower, as the sun rises above it confirming the blessing of the airport project by the gods, the terminal building still under construction, Governor Willie Obiano giving Captain Musa Nuhu, DG of Nigeria Civil Aviation Agency (NACA) and his team a tour of the airport facilities during their inspection visit on Wednesday, 24th March, 2021, and the runway of Anambra International Cargo and Passenger airport, as it blends into the Umueri skyline, imagine the economic possibilities.
Those naysayers who wonder whether this is real should believe. It’s as real as night and day.
Those who question the choice of an airport by Governor Willie Obiano over other things the government could have done with the resources should understand that government is a continuum. This government considers this airport project a priority likewise other infrastructural projects it has embarked on, because of the multiplier economic effect. The next government can focus on other areas and projects.
Those who question the idea behind the airport when there is Asaba, Enugu and Owerri airports should understand that there are lots of considerations in passengers and users choosing an airport to patronise such as (1) Proximity from home/office/departure point (2) State of origin effect/emotional and sentimental reasons/patronising your own to grow your state economy (3) Service availability e.g Cargo, hotels, shopping mall etc (4) Flight schedules and routes available etc. (5) Operating airlines (6) Ease of arriving at airport/ Note that traffic on Niger Bridge Onitsha sometimes lasts hours etc.
Note also that:
(1) The Anambra airport is not targeting only passengers and cargo users from Onitsha. The catchment is the whole Anambra state and South East states. If the cargo airport takes off, you don’t need to go to NAHCO shed in Lagos and queue up to clear your goods if you are selling them in the South East. Anambra airport is nearer.
(2) Over time, Anambra entrepreneurs have demonstrated appreciable comparative advantage in airline management. Late Chief Ikwuemesi who owned Sosoliso airlines, Chief Allen Onyema, owner of Air Peace, and Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, owner of United Nigeria Airlines are all Ndi Anambra. Anambra -born Chief Chidi Anyaegbu, Owner of Chisco Transport has announced that the group’s Havila Airlines will take off shortly.
They have all indicated that they would make Anambra airport their hub.
If we should apply all these factors, then the Anambra airport beats Asaba and all the other south eastern airports in competitive terms.
Another critical point to note while assessing the viability of the Anambra airport is scalability. There is ample land in Umueri and the surrounding airport communities such as Nteje, Umunya, Aguleri etc for expansion. Remember the saying that ‘Rome was not built in a day’. Even Heathrow airport in London, United Kingdom started with just Terminal one. Over time, it has developed to Terminals 2,3,4 and 5.
Successive governments in Anambra state can expand the airport and add to the pioneering and visionary work started by Governor Willie Obiano, who conceived and built the airport in under 2 years, following the disappointment with the Chinese Investors and Consortium that the airport was concessioned to originally in 2017 when the project was first flagged off under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement.
The non-performance of that memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between the Chinese Consortium and Anambra state government made Governor Obiano to attack the airport project with renewed vigour and innovative funding model, with Anambra state government fully funding and owning the airport as it is at the moment without incurring any debts. According to the Governor, this was to fulfil the promise he made to Ndi Anambra that he would build them an airport.
Those who are smart are already moving in and thinking of compatible businesses they can set up. Lands around the airport area are selling fast. Trust our people who understand the law of first mover in business and it’s advantages, they are already primed for the eventual take-off of the airport.
What are you waiting for?