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Daura Airport: Tinubu should stop this waste

Daura Airport: Tinubu should stop this waste
December 07
08:49 2023

BY ABDULLAHI MASABA USMAN

The issue generated a heated argument among those of us in that living room last Saturday. We had gathered informally to watch a football match and catch up on news around the world. In such a gathering of enlightened young men, many issues of current affairs will usually come up for debate. Then the discourse veered into why foreign airlines charge exorbitant airfare on passengers travelling from Nigeria to destinations across the world compared to what passengers leaving for the same destinations from Ghana, Nigeria’s West African neighbour, pay.

Then suddenly the topic changed and somebody quizzed: “What do you expect when a country that is economically challenged like our own still finds resources to construct an airport for the use of one individual”. Many of us chorused: “Which Nigerian is the government building airport for? Is it Tinubu?” Another person queried: “Are they building an airport for him in Bourdillon?”.

That is how the news came out. The Buhari government had been constructing a full airport in Daura, the hometown of the former president. The work is ongoing and recently, the cost of the project which was fixed at N10 billion is allegedly being revised and raised to N30 billion. The airport is said to be located on Kano Road, Daura.

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The question most of us unanimously raised during that discussion is: what commercial importance is attached to having an airport in Daura that is just close by to Zinder in Niger Republic? With a full airport in Katsina town, just 77 kilometres away, why is the airport in Daura needed? Even the Katsina airport is underutilised. It is always looking desolate except when a top government official comes into town from Abuja or other parts of the north.

Apart from this needless effort in Katsina state, I don’t know which state in the country has two airports. Not even Lagos state, which is the commercial capital of Nigeria and whose only airport, the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Ikeja, hosts 48.71% of air travellers in the country has a duplicate.

In a country where almost all states are struggling to survive economically and yet the governors are carelessly building airports at exorbitant project fees, another question is: what could have been the motivation for having an airport in Daura located in a corner of Katsina state which already has an under-utilised airport? Is the airport like the railway track also to link that part of Nigeria to Niger Republic? If the answer is yes, for what national purpose or what economic gain?

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All intelligent guesses point to the fact that the town has a VIP resident. He is former President Muhammadu Buhari whose administration also had an indigene of Katsina state as minister of aviation in its eight years in office. That airport could only allegedly be a prestige project established to serve the interests of somebody or a small group of people. As far back as 2015, when Buhari was just a few months in office, the administration looked for the best means to make his travelling to and from his hometown a very easy task. Then, a helipad was built close to his home in Daura. Thus, he would travel by aeroplane to Katsina airport and then use a chopper or helicopter to land in Daura.

The establishment of a full airport was shrouded in secrecy as many people in Nigeria do not know about the ongoing project. Until our friend broached the issue during our informal discussion last weekend, I never knew about the project.

However, at this point, it is important to call on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to review the viability of the project and determine if it makes economic sense and then take a decision on its continuity or otherwise. At a time when the national economy is heading south when the country is heavily indebted locally and internationally when foreign exchange inflow is in trickles while its converse outflow is gushing like a flash flood, is the construction of a prestige airport project the next wastage that the nation should indulge in?

An airport is a money-guzzling project. A lot of the facilities to be put in place at the site will have to be imported, another huge drain on the inexistent forex. Also, with the way the cost of the contract is allegedly being varied, it shows that the project has become another drain pipe on the scarce resource and a pot of soup for some smart, unpatriotic Nigerians to be licking. Will Tinubu want to encourage all of these shenanigans?

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From all indications, the only reason why Tinubu may not want to stop this Katsina project is that he does not want to offend Buhari and his crowd. It is only ego-tripping and ego-massaging reasons that can put a government in dire financial straits as the present federal administration to sustain the construction of an airport in Daura at this point.

For the sake of patriotism, to block another hole in the federal government finances, to prevent a situation where the government will create another future problem, and to stop what may just be another source of siphoning funds, President Tinubu should stop this project. He should cut the losses of the government by diverting the resources being wasted on this economically disastrous project to more useful ventures.

In the same Katsina state, insecurity, lack of basic social services, poverty among the masses, the collapse of federal infrastructure, and youth unemployment are some of the ills plaguing the citizenry, and the resources being wasted on this Daura airport can be diverted to solving some of the problems. Tinubu, a stitch in time saves nine. Nigeria is greater than any individual.

Lest I forget, two points are very clear from the Daura Airport project issue. One, it is another way to demonstrate how the economy of Nigeria was run in the eight years that Buhari was in power as president. It also shows what informed the choice of projects to embark on and the site of such projects in a government headed by the Mai Gaskiya of our time.

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Two, that such a project is surreptitiously being implemented without any national outcry is also an indictment on the 9th national assembly headed by Ahmed Lawan. It further confirms that Lawan headed an ‘anything goes’ assembly. A legislature whose oversight could not pick up this drain on the economy, a legislature that will compromise its role as a check on executive excesses, a law-making body that will do anything that suits the executive and always eager to please the Big Man in Aso Rock Villa, a legislature that does not scrutinise the budget critically and identify projects that will not help the economy to grow but rather constitute a huge burden. That is not a legislature that served the national interest. It is a legislature that history will continue to condemn.


Usman writes from Abuja.

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