Benin Airport may have tripled if not quadripled its potential to grow and serve not just passenger and cargo traffic but sustain all other forms of business if what the remdelling achieved is anything to go by.
This has opened up possibilities for business owners and potential investors to storm the airport as it has been made conducise not only for airport activities but other forms of buying and selling an touring as well.
The airport last Friday came online as the third airport in the first phase of the remodelling exercise to be commissioned in the train of airports all over Nigeria lined up to be remodelled.
The airport built in the 1980s like other airports in Nigeria was abandoned and left to rot and decay with time leaving it a total wreck and a complete eyesore.
Interestingly, as years went by, the passengers traveling through the airport increased and so to speak Benin became along with Enugu, Lagos, Kano, and Port Harcourt, one of the most viable airports in the country.
In 2010, the Benin airport, one of the fastest growing airports in the country in terms of
Passenger movement recorded 348,906 passengers and 323,545 passengers in 2011.
Aircraft movement at the airport during the period under review showed that in 2010, a total of 7,081 movements passed through the airport while in 2011; 6,791 movement were recorded.
However, while the passenger traffic of the airport continued to increase steadily; the facilities that were put in place were never replaced or upgraded, thus the rapid decline of the airport.
Caused mostly by airlines inability to keep to scheduled operations, passengers have decided to go the way of the road while the airlines blamed their late coming on a certain number of factors of which facilities to operate was key.
The case today is however quite different as the Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah has put in place top notch world class facilities for airline operators to be satisfied and passengers to be extremely comfortable.
While remodelling was ongoing and she was asked why it was taking longer than she promised, the minister said quality mattered a lot in the remodelling and she wanted to give Nigerians the kind of quality they deserved after years of rot.
She also assured that the ministry was not sacrificing quality for speed, “Not at all because we have our quality control group working with them at all times, we want to make sure we don’t play with customer safety which is why we are doing total restructuring and remodelling as we are doing so.”
In her speech while commissioning the remodelled terminal, Oduah also said that Benin was just another stepping stone and that from the end of the month the projects will be unveiled and commissioned around the country.
She also revealed that Benin became a priority because of its potential in passenger and cargo traffic as well as strategic location and would help in boosting business and creating employment.
She said, “Aside from the general policy of Government to modernize all airports in the country, in compliance with existing international standards and practices, the Benin Airport was accorded priority under the Airport Remodelling Project because of its potential for growth in scheduled flight and cargo operations, considering its proximity to major industries in the Niger Delta and farm settlements in Edo State.”
“One of the major planks of the aviation sector master plan is the development of international cargo terminals across the country, to encourage the exportation of perishable farm produce by air, to different parts of the world, with attendant economic benefits to all Nigerian farmers and businessmen.”
“It is the expectation of government that this remodelled Benin Airport terminal, which has a full complement of modern airport facilities, will not only stimulate air travel in Edo and other surrounding states but will also encourage large scale farming and the proliferation of industries.”
“This will ultimately reduce unemployment among our youth. I, therefore, urge the good people of Edo State and other people who reside in this state and beyond to ensure that this airport is adequately utilized, to justify the huge resources spent in transforming it into an airport of choice.”
Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), George Uriesi who also spoke at the commissioning gave in details the facilities at the remodelled terminal especially those put in place as recent enhancements.
“The remodelling of the Benin Airport Terminal entailed the expansion of the floor of the arrival and departure halls to enable them cope with growing passenger traffic, especially at peak periods,” he explained.
“More offices, shops, toilets and other related terminal facilities such as a modern VIP lounge have been added to the terminal. This is aside from the installation of modern x-ray screening machines, CCTV, check-in counters, conveyor belts and other facilities comparable to the best in the world.”
He thanked President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan for showing unequalled passion for the transformation of Nigerian airports by giving prompt approval to all projects designed to bring our airports at par with modern airports all over the world stating that ,’ Posterity will surely remember the president for this.’
He expressed gratitude to stakeholders, both in the public and private sectors, who have, in one way or another, made our task of transforming Nigerian airports easier especially airline passengers and operators, who endured all the inconvenience associated with the reconstruction of the terminal.
Governor of Edo State Comrade Adam Oshiomole commended the Minister for the feat while calling on the National Assembly (NASS) to assist the Aviation Ministry by passing a supplementary budget to provide Air Field Lighting (AFL) and resurface the 2.4 kilometres Benin airport runway.
Benin Airport currently operates visual flights; 6 am to 6pm because AFL has not been installed at the airport and the Governor said that with that installation the airport can attend to flights for 24 hours where necessary.
Oshiomole who decried what the airport used to be said that while the passenger traffic of the airport continue to increase; the facilities that were put in place in the 70s were never replaced or upgraded, adding that today Benin airport is not only wearing a new look but has been provided with modern facilities.
Oshiomole added that what the aviation Minister, Mrs Stella Oduah has done goes not only to show that she is from the private sector but also that people from the private sector are good at maintaining facilities
He said, “What the minister of aviation has done shows that so much is possible if a leader is focus and clear of what he wants. We are here to celebrate a woman who believes our airports needed to be remodelled to be able to compete with other airports across the world”
“We salute your courage ,your sense of purpose and your industry .We appeal to the National Assembly to make a supplementary budget so that minister of aviation can use it to install Airfield Lighting(AFL), resurface the runway so that Benin airport can operate 24 hours.
Benin airport indeed has been transformed and has become the latest of the commissioned airports by the Ministry to ensure that air travelers have a comfortable experience when traveling within the nation
On October 22, 2012, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim commissioned the reconstructed General Aviation Terminal (Now Domestic Terminal I) of the MMA while the General Aviation Terminal (including a pilgrims terminal) of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, the first for that airport since its inception in the mid 1980s, was commissioned by the Deputy Senate President, Mr. Ike Ekweremadu on January 21, 2013.
Last Friday, the Comrade Governor himself, Comrade Adams Oshomole would lend his weight to this wind of change in the industry by commissioning the third terminal here in Benin Airport.
The other eight remaining airports in the first phase of the project – Yola, Jos, Enugu, Owerri, Kano, Kaduna, Calabar and Port-Harcourt International Airport would all be commissioned by August this year, about the same that the second phase of the project, involving the remaining airports in the country, would commence.