An atmosphere of confusion now reigns supreme in the entire Ogun State over the establishment of two airports which have been steeped in controversies between two previous administrations and the present one.
The controversy over the project is centred on locations which have now brought tribal sentiments into the issuethat is affecting the economic wellbeing of the people of the state, particularly, the people of Wasimi in Ewekoro Local Government and Iperu/Ilishan Remo in Ishagamu axis where the controversial airports are cited.
The most pathetic aspect is that the two airports at Wasimi and Shagamu have been abandoned which has brought the colossal amount of money spent on them to a total waste.
The crisis over the two cargo airports came into the limelight few weeks ago due to the feud between the former Governor Senator Ibikunle Amosun, who is now back in the Senate and his successor, Mr. Dapo Abiodun. Their grouse centered on their preferred locations.
While Dapo Abiodun wants to maintain the Ilishan Remo Shagamu airport, initiated by Otunba Gbenga Daniel, when he was the governor, Amosun still insists on the Wasimi Cargo airport to double as passenger airport as well, which is his own baby, for which N2 billion was said to have been approved by the present Federal government, should be built.
Facts coming out presently concerning the two airports indicated that the Ilishan Remo Shagamu one, the handiwork of former governor Daniel, was proposed in 2005, with all documentations completed, but the then President Olusegun Obasanjo did not approved it before he left office but his successor, late Umar Musa Yar’ Adua approved it and granted both Cargo and passengers status licence. Unfortunately, Daniel did not complete the project. It was argued that rather than his successor Senator Amosun continuing with the project, he abandoned it and initiated his own at Wasimi, in Ewekoro Local Government, for which he got approval.
Though Governor Abiodun and Senator Amosun belong to the same political party, they are not in the same camp and this brought about the imbroglio between them over the airports meant to boost the economy of Ogun State.
Ogun state no doubt with his proximity to Lagos, the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria, occupies enviable position as an investment destination. It is also a gate way route to large market of the Economic Community of West African countries.
Apart from this, the Airport would be good for the importation of consumer goods, machinery, industrial raw materials products, export of agricultural products and services.
Other motives for which the two airports were initiated include, mail and courier services, pilot training school, aircraft maintenance facilities, general aviation facilities as well as helicopter and Air taxi services.
They were also meant to create jobs, stimulate economic activities, in the localities, supposed to raise the living standard and condition of the people of the state, particularly the areas where they are located.
Although it was not clear so far how much has been committed to the Shagamu Airport, it was learnt that apart from the fencing of the site and compensations paid to those whose farm lands were acquired for the project, no further financial commitment had been made.
What is clear was that the Gate Way cargo Airport project in Shagamu got the attention of the late Yar’Adua’s government and that there was an agreement reached with Dar-AlHassan of Dubai of the United Arab Emirate for the construction work.
Right now, due to the abandonment and the infighting between the executive backed by Daniel and the state legislature supported by Amsun, the project has become a victim of power play and the investment is allowed to suffer.
From records, it was shown that N20 billion was approved, while it was claimed that in 2017, the State lost about $50million which should have been invested into the Dry Port by Hull Blyth Shipping and Cargo Services Company.
Our checks also discovered that appropriations were made on yearly basis for the project which has not moved forward beyond the fencing. In 2018, for instance, it was discovered that N450 million was approved to be spent, yet nothing was done on the site.
What is now causing problem is the moves by both Amosun and Abiodun to revisit the two projects which to a large extent people believed have brought tribal colouration and what could be described as a fight between Amosun, an Egba man who wants Wasimi in Egbaland, and the incumbent governor Abiodun and Gbenga Daniel, the Initiator of the Shagamu project who are both from Remo in Ijebu, over a viable economic project which is supposed to be for the benefit of the generality of the people of the state and Nigeria at large.
The projects rather than improving the lives of the people have created more problems for them. Those whose land was procured for the Wasinmi Airport claimed that up till now no compensation has been paid to them.
In all, over 35 communities were affected and have lodged their complaints to the House of Representatives, that the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) reached with them for compensation, has not been met by the government.
Also, the Senate has now waded in to the controversy, during which People in the Aviation Industry and government officials were invited by the Senate Committee on Aviation to shed more lights on the controversies surrounding the two airports.
During the recent sitting of the Committee, the Director of the Nigerians Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) Captain Musa Shiiabu Nuhu said his authority only have records on the Shagamu Cargo Aorport which was approved in 2018 before he came into office as the DG.
It was also interesting that during the sitting of the committee, there were various claims concerning the Wasimi and the Shagamu projects. Even members could not agree with themselves. Senator Na’Allah (APC) Kebi South argued that it was the Wasinmi that got the approval and the nod of the federal government with a N2 billion as capital support grant.
Also Senator Tolu Odebiyi (APC) Ogun (West) who was the former Secretary of the Ogun State government said he too, was aware of the Wasinmi project. But the two Senators who favoured Wasinmi were countered by Senator Adeola Olamilekan (APC) Lagos West that he was not aware of Wasinmi but that of Shagamu.
It was also found out that the Minister of Aviation and Transport Hadi Sirika sought an approval from the Presidency in 2018, for the airport project at Wasinmi in Ewekoro Local government of Ogun State.
BusinessHallmark checks indicated that a letter by the Minister, Sarika, with Reference FMA/DSTP/402/S86/1/196 titled Request of payment of the sum of N2billion on Capital support Grant for the construction of Ogun State Airport at Wasinmi in Abeokuta was eventually approved.
It was also learnt that the Ministerial Technical team backed Wasinmi, which is about 60 kilometres from Murtala Mohammed Airport (MMA) as location to facilitate VIP movement, border control, Agro and pesticide control and Medical Emergency Evacuation to enhance economic development in Ogun State and to complement facilities at the MMA.
Right now, both projects are still in limbo and no one is sure which one will be executed as people are saying that both Amosun and Abiodun are playing politics and tribal sentiments at the expense of the economic viability of Ogun State and the lives of the people who would suffer at the end of the day, as long as the projects remain abandoned.
Although the Chairman Senate Committee on Aviation Senator Smart Adeyemi argued that the issue was not a problem and that Ogun State could make do with two airports, Senator Adeyemi’s argument was faulted as people continued to ask for the rationale behind a state as small as Ogun having two airports when even the Federal government has not been able to effectively manage the major airports with its resources.
Barrister Taiwo Adeoluwa, the immediate past Secretary to the Ogun State Government under Senator Ibikunle Amosun said Governor Dapo Abiodun was not saying the truth about the airport being constructed in Wasinmi, Ewekoro Local Government Area of the state.
Adeoluwa said the Abiodun government, when inaugurated, made attempts to stop the airport by asking contractors to vacate the site.
“From day one, the current regime in Ogun State simply wanted the Abeokuta Airport project in Wasimi to be moribund. Very early after it took office, the Ogun State Government forcefully halted the then ongoing works at the Abeokuta Airport site in Wasimi. They told the contractors that Ogun State does not need the airport anymore and directed the contractors to remove their equipment from the Airport.”
He said that the former administration had decided not to join issues with the present government. But, “However, watching the video and reading the accounts of the meeting between the Senate Committee on Aviation and officials of the present Ogun State Government, and the many lies and concocted half-truths, we consider that we owe our people and Nigerians at large the duty to speak the truth without necessarily infringing our ‘Sidon look’ disposition,” he in a statement.
Adeoluwa clarified that the Abeokuta International Airport project in Wasimi, Ogun State was conceived in 2008 by the Federal Government as an airstrip, before the Amosun administration.
He explained further “the Federal Government, since 2009, made appropriation and consistently prosecuted this project; the perimeter fence for the airport was completed in 2010, a year before our assumption of office in 2011.”
“After we took office in 2011, we sought to know the progress on the project. We visited the proposed site and sought technical advice on how to proceed. The contractor engaged by the former administration refused to cooperate with us. He refused to avail us the drawings and technical details. For unclear reasons, he chose litigation, after we rejected their humongous monetary claims.
“When we visited the site, we observed that it was in a built-up neighbourhood and there were several encroachments. There was nothing on ground, not even a perimeter fence to delineate the project site – the only feasible thing was a sign post with the Ogun State logo indicating the name of the cargo airport, Ilisan,” he stated.
While saying the Ilisan proposed Cargo Airport site was made unsuitable by the large scale encroachment and built-up areas, the former Ogun scribe disclosed that the experts engaged in 2012 advised that an airport in Ogun East will be best sited within Ogun Waterside and Ijebu East Local Governments to serve the Olokola Free Trade Zone axis, and will make more sense on account of the proposed Deep Sea Port projected for the area and the activities along the Ijebu-Ode/Epe corridor.
“Besides, the experts equally pointed out the suitability of the axis because it is a green field and free of encumbrances. They were very clear that the site chosen in Ilisan has totally become unsuitable for an airport – be it cargo or otherwise as at March, 2012. Faced with these practical and technical realities, our attention shifted back to the Federal Government owned Abeokuta International Airport, Wasimi which was already ongoing.
“International Airport project in Wasimi has come to stay. It is serviced by a 12km access dual carriage way (under construction), and, a fully established and defined 6-kilometer Runway, among other components at different stages,” the former SSG said. Calls and massages sent to the present Ogun stste Commissioner Comrade Waheed Odusile.
But the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor Mr. Kunle Somonrin in a WhatsApp message to the BisinessHallmark on Saturday afternoon, pointed out that as far as they were concerned and based on available records, “only one Airport is known to NCCA, the only regulatory agency for that sector. There is no approval for the farcial one in Wasinmi we are a law-abiding government.”