By Uche Nwosu,
In September 2013, the former governor of Abia State, now Senator Theodore Orji told the people of Abia State that his administration has concluded arrangements to build an airport as a parting gift to the people. Indeed, the applause this declaration generated knew no bounds as Aba businessmen and women saw it as a wonderful move to lessen their burden of travelling to the Imo Airport, Port Harcourt International Airport or Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu any time they wanted to travel out.
To add oxygen to this vow, Gov Orji in January 2014, a year and half before he left office, told a jubilant state of the preparedness of his administration to build half of the airport project before leaving office. As he welcomed to the Government House, Umuahia, Chief Folorunso Okenla, the team leader of Euro Asia Global Services limited, technical partners to GGCOC, China construction, the firm that was supposed to handle the project, Gov Orji asserted, “I’ll hand over at least half of this project to my successor”.
During the brief ceremony, Orji believed that the project was a livewire of the state and also an avenue through which the economy of Abia would blossom. Majority of Abia residents, the former governor enthused, are international businessmen who needed to always connect to their counterparts abroad. He said he would initiate the process as one of his legacies and that even if he did not complete it, his successor would.
However and surprisingly too, nothing was done on the site as the administration of Theodore Orji exited on May 29, 2015. The large expanse of land ran through Oboro, Ikwuano LGA to Nsulu in Isiala Ngwa North. These areas were considered because of their terrain which is the best for such project.
Meanwhile, as Gov Okezie Ikpeazu took over from Orji on May 2015, the people of the state expected action on the project, but the new governor regaled them with a fresh wave promises and assuredly told them that the project construction was in his priority list, adding that to link Abia to the international market is part of the items in his kitty.
Indeed, Ikpeazu specifically told the Abia Airport Project team led by Chairman and President Eskom Plc, Chief Philip Orjiako, that visited him at the Government House, Umuahia in February 2020 (another team away from the first that supposedly struck a deal with T A Orji) that his government would perform the ground-breaking ceremony in April 2020. He also assured Abians that his government would ensure that the project was realized before the expiration of his administration in the May 2023.
The project, he explained, was dear to the people of the state and that it would open up more development channels, enhance interstate relations and boost economic activities across the South-south and Southeast states.
Ironically, this is November 2020 and no area in the state has been cleared for an airport ground-breaking event.
Nonetheless, Ikpeazu’s Commissioner for Lands, Survey and Urban Planning, Barr Suleiman Ukandu had in July 2020 assured supposed land donors of the project of the readiness of the government to compensate them handsomely. According to him, the communities include those in Ikwuano and Isiala Ngwa North LGAs and that they will be paid before the end of May 2020. During the meeting, Ukandu announced that the April date has been moved to May.
Ukandu asked his visitors made up traditional rulers, town unions’ presidents general and stakeholders of the affected communities in both LGAs that they should be ready to work with foreign investors in order to build a world class airport in the state. Given the fact that Coronavirus pandemic may have stalled the commencement of the project at the agreed time ie April or May 2020, why entertaining the suggestion that the building of the airport should be suspended entirely by Abia traditional rulers?
This is a project the residents had looked onto since 2013. Why this shift of policy now? Besides, when did monarchs in Abia State start interfering in the politics and governance of the state? Would Gov Okezie Ikpeazu have welcomed them if they had come to ask him to speed up action in the governance of the state, particularly completion of uncompleted projects scattered here and there. The Osisioma Over Bridge (Flyover) is a pointer?
It was gathered that the Royals were sponsored to make the request; this indeed is a sad commentary on the culture of our people and certainly a bad politics for those who by omission or commission intend to desecrate the royal institution.
Please traditional rulers should not be dragged into politics or governance.
Uche Nwosu is a two time Shell Petroleum PLC award winner in the year 2000;
He won the Shell Award on Investigative Journalism and Environmental Cleanliness.