The Director –General of Sir Ahmadu Bello International Airport, Birin Kebbi, Alhaji Abubakar Umar Darkingari has explained that the state government decided to construct an airport with the view to boost the export of farm produce, enhance socio-economic development and prepare the state for foreign investment.
Presently the state exports farm produce like onions, maize and rice to North African countries, Asia and also to the local markets in Lagos, Kano, South East and south, South as the largest onion and rice producer in the country.
But because the state lacks its own airport before now, its farmers, assisted by the state government, face rigorous and unprofitable process of first trucking the farm produce to over 150 kilometers to the airport in Sokoto before exporting them.
In the same vein, the farmers use trucks as the only choice to move 1,500 tons of onions daily out of Kebbi to the large markets in southern states of the country through over hundreds of kilometres of largely bad roads.
Darkingari said that to empower the farmers economically, the state government realised that exporting the produce from airport in the state would be cost-saving, more profitable and less rigorous for the farmers.
He said that the state government decided to build an airport that meets international standards in terms of facilities and equipment because it believes that it would attract international cargo and passenger airlines in the near future, considering the huge agriculture and investment potential of the state.
“Airports create spontaneous reactions in the movement of persons and goods wherever they are cited. Hitherto our people use the Kano airport to export and bring in goods here, some even use Sokoto and the Lagos airports, but with the capability of this airport to handle bigger aircraft, you can make arrangement to deliver any size of cargo at the door step of the people here. Kebbi state is an agrarian society that focuses on agriculture, the presence of the facility means that the raw materials from agriculture produce and the processed one as the case maybe can be exported easily to any part of the world,” Dakingari said.
The Director-General said government is currently building an agricultural conditioning centre where farm produce would be preserved for export, adding that state government expanded the existing airport due to the need to accommodate large body aircraft to operate into the state.
He said the airport has some of the most modern equipment and some of the facilities cannot be found in other airports in the country like the Doppler Very High Frequency Omnidirectional Radio Range (DVOR), the only of such equipment in any of the nation’s airports.
“The initial runway was about l.8 kilometre but now it has been expanded to 3.2 kilometres, the width was about 45 meters but now it has been increased to 60 meters, so it can handle a Boeing 747-400 aircraft which airlines use to airlift pilgrims from Nigeria and also for other international operations.
The state government also targets to boost tourism with the airport and also encourage foreign and local investment, as it would be very difficult to establish industry in a state or environment that does not have airport, where economic movers and shakers can quickly travel out and in.
“We have tourism here in the state. This state is home to the world famous annual Argungun finishing festival, we also have the cultural fair in Zuru and Yauri. These are tourist attraction that brings people from other parts of the country and the world. The airport makes it easy for people to come to the state and this will help galvanise the economy. The easy movement of persons by virtue of the airport is a money spinning venture for the state. The presence of the airport has equally provided employment for over 200 indigenes of the state, from which 100 would be trained as aviators. They will be trained at the College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria and the Federal Airports Nigeria (FAAN) training school in Lagos” Dakingari said.