Ogun monarchs differ on Gov Dapo Abiodun’s focus on completion of Gateway Agro-Cargo Airport Ilisan, indifference to abandoned International Airport in Ewekoro
The decision of the Governor Dapo Abiodun-led Ogun State Government to push through the completion of the state-owned Gateway Agro-Cargo Airport has been met with mixed reactions.
Barring any last minute change of plans, the Ogun State Government, according to the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Alhaji Waheed Odusile who spoke at a recent event attended by NewsClick Nigeria, will in few months commission the Airport located at Ilisan Remo, Ikene Local Government Area of the state saying works are already in completion stages.
However, the proposed commissioning of the Airport which was conceptualized in 2006 and approved for construction in 2008, all under the first term administration of former Governor Gbenga Daniel has raised dust amongst traditional rulers (particularly of the host communities) in the state.
In separate interviews with NewsClick Nigeria, the monarchs while expressing satisfaction and commending the Governor for deeming it fit to resuscitate the Agro-Cargo Airport also asked for the same to be extended to the abandoned International Airport at Wasimi. While His Royal Majesty, Oba M.O.M Sonuga, the Olofin of Illisan, is ecstatic about the proposed completion and commissioning of the Agro-Cargo Airport, His Royal Majesty, Oba Taofeek Atanda Adewale Animashaun, the Olu of Alagbon, (a community in Wasimi, Ewekoro Local Government) feels successive governments did not give the International Airport sited in the area the desired attention that could have led to its development and timely completion. He particularly blamed former Governor Ibikunle Amosun for the rot and abandonment that now dots the site of the airport project.
For clarification sake, NewsClick Nigeria notes that before the coming on board of the Dapo Abiodun administration in 2019, Ogun State had two multi-billion naira abandoned airport projects; the International (Passenger) Airport located at Imosan Village, Wasimi, Ewekoro Local Government and the Gateway Agro-Cargo Airport at Ilishan, Ikenne Local Government. While one (Agro-Cargo) is state owned, the other (Passenger) is a Federal Government initiative.
Newsclick Nigeria gathered that for years, residents in Ilisan Remo (in Ogun East Senatorial District) and those in Wasimi in Ewekoro Local Government (Ogun Central Senatorial District) have had to endure untold hardships after losing large proportions of family land for the airport projects. While some were meagerly compensated, others were not but never mind because of the high hopes of ‘new lives’ that the airports which never materialized for years might bring.
According to reports, the controversy over the projects that led to their abandonment for years centred on locations which have now brought tribal sentiments into its completion. While former Governor Amosun wanted Wasimi Airport completed, incumbent Governor Abiodun prefers Agro-Cargo Airport.
“People talk to me as if the agro-cargo airport has taken off. But up till now, nothing is on ground; not even the feasibility study, which we asked for. Some people said the government owes them billions of naira and that we should pay. I said how?
“As we speak, there is nothing that we met that we can say on the ground. When people accused me of abandoning the Agro-Cargo Airport project, I told them I met nothing on ground.
“But don’t worry, things will be sorted out. We are going to include the airport in our developmental projects,” the then Governor (Amosun) said when quizzed about his lukewarm approach to the project.
However, the former governor while defending his choice of the passenger airport project as against the state owned Agro-Cargo airport during his recent visit (as Senator) to the site in Wasimi said: “For me, if it is possible to have more than 10 airports (in the state), I am happy for it. But, I want to safely say that by the benevolence of the Almighty, this airport (Wasimi) will see the light of the day.
“Pictures don’t lie; the runway is already established; this is not a game, but a result of hard work and the support we are getting from the Federal Government.
“This is a Federal Government project no doubt, and I am sure that the Federal Government does not waste its money; it wouldn’t be appropriating money to what it will not want to finish.”
However, Governor Dapo Abiodun will not buy his predecessor’s submission. According to him, Ogun State needed an agro-cargo and not passenger airport, hence the government’s decision to go ahead with the plan to construct and complete the agro-cargo airport.
“This administration is deliberate and methodical. The need to have a cargo airport was made by our joint inter-ministerial committee and we consequently evaluated the initiatives that were started by previous administrations, because government is a continuum.
“When the Senate Committee on Aviation visited us, we shared with them the business case for this airport. We reminded them that the two airports proposals were not initiated by this administration. I told them that the committee we set up to look into the two airports concluded unequivocally that this location remained the best and most viable location for the airport.
“After a thorough evaluation, the choice of the cargo airport location in Ilishan was unanimous; it complements the agric/processing factories in that corridor with access/egress road network.
“To that extent, our decisions are guided by the principles of good governance; is it fair, just and equitable to all? Is the process transparent and inclusive? Did the people make an input? Is it of economic importance/value? Will it possibly impact the life of our people? We must hold ourselves accountable at all times. After all, the people are the essence of governance and we are only holding the office in trust for them,” Abiodun stated.
While faulting the Wasimi airport, Abiodun said comparatively, his government did not get the details and information of the location in the handover notes, claiming that the whole process was shrouded in secrecy.
The Governor said a committee headed by the national President of the Nigerian Society of Engineers was commissioned to investigate the proposed airport, and it found out that there was no approval by the Ministry of Aviation or the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
Agro-Cargo Airport takeoff will herald total turnaround for Ilisan, Iperu and adjoining towns – Olofin of Illisan
For the Olofin of Illisan, His Royal Majesty, Oba M.O.M Sonuga, the eventually completion, commissioning and takeoff of the Agro-Cargo Airport will usher in the desired economic and infrastructural turnaround for Illisan, Iperu and other adjoining towns.
A visit to the project site and Oba’s Palace by the NewsClick Nigeria team suggested that residents were enthusiastic of the completion and final takeoff of the Airport. The Oluwo of Illisan, Chief Solomon Adeniyi Fogoronna who spoke on behalf of Oba Sonuga who was unavoidably absent when NewsClick Nigeria visited said the development was long overdue.
“We are eagerly awaiting the commissioning and takeoff of the airport. It is a development that is long overdue going by how long the project was initiated and the eventual politics involved. Our people here sacrificed ancestral lands and other expensive resources for this project. It is unfortunate that some have died and will not be witnessing the commissioning because of years of abandonment.
“When completed and commissioned, we anticipate that the economic activities on this corridor will improve and that will drive more investors here. That will ultimately lead to creation of jobs and infrastructural development. The airport will self-drive developments in this locality. The benefits outweigh whatever inconveniences that we might have experienced in the past. Our people can then gradually reap from the years of sacrifice to bring the airport alive,” Chief Solomon explained.
Wasimi and adjoining towns will not forget Amosun’s abandonment – Olu of Alagbon
The people of Mosan, Wasimi and adjoining towns will not forget how former Governor Amosun paid lip service to the development of the International Airport sited on their soil. This is according to His Royal Majesty, Oba Taofeek Atanda Adewale Animashaun, the Olu of Alagbon.
Oba Animashaun in an exclusive interview with NewsClick Nigeria said the former Governor’s refusal to follow through with the Federal Government on the need to expedite action on the project led to its total abandonment. He noted that the incumbent administration also has not deemed it fit to resuscitate the project like it did with the Agro-Cargo Airport in Illisan for political reasons.
“Former Governor Amosun is to blame for the abandonment of the Passenger Airport sighted in our town. While we understand that the project is Federal Government owned, however, he (Amosun) failed to draw necessary attention to it while in office. When the project commenced, people were happy and Wasimi and adjoining towns felt the impact. Everything went crushing to square one when the project was stopped abruptly,” the monarch explained.
Asked if Governor Abiodun’s claim that Illisan is more viable for an airport project than Wasimi, Oba Animashaun said: “That is simply politics. Everyone wants good things to their side. The Federal Government will not embark on a non-viable project or waste its resources on a project that may likely fail. We did not lobby nor formally request that a project be sited here. It was an outcome of their feasibility study that led them here and that has caused us huge loss and they have so far meagerly or out rightly refused to compensate those affected. But we are hopeful that one day this project will come alive as the one in Illisan is now coming alive after years of neglect.”
…as Abiodun flags off $800m Agro Cargo Airport processing zone
Meanwhile, Governor Abiodun last year (November 5, 2022) performed the groundbreaking of the development of the State Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zone (SAPZ) at the Agro Cargo International Airport.
The Governor had earlier disclosed that his administration will turn the sod of $800m Special Agro-Processing Zone to be sited at the Agro-Cargo Airport in Ilisan-Remo.
The first phase of the project worth $400m being executed in collaboration with Arise Integrated Industrial Platforms and Ogun State Government, according to the governor, would be completed in 18 months.
Speaking further, Abiodun said that the special industrial park for agro-processing and allied products is the first of its kind in the country and would generate over 20,000 direct jobs and individual prosperity.
The governor added that the Agro-Cargo Airport will probably be the fastest constructed international airport on the continent.
He expressed his delight that the location of the airport that was as at March 2021, a forest and dump site has now become the airport city.
Abiodun disclosed that apart from the SAPZ, the Nigeria Customs Service has decided to locate one of its biggest facilities in the country and made full payment of N3.2b for the first 100 hectares of land.
Governor Abiodun while thanking the President of the Arise Group, Gangan Gupta, for keying into the vision of making Ogun the industrial hub in the country, equally acknowledged the President of the African Development Bank, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, for his support and encouragement to pursue the realization of the project.
“I must then acknowledge and thank the President of the AFREXIM, Dr. Ben Orama, who I called to discuss further the PPP/SAPZ model with and who arranged the physical meeting with ARISE and myself. Without the trust and confidence Dr. Orama had in me, which was the basis of the reference in the first place, we definitely won’t be here today.
“Of course all these had to be backed up by financing and I must thank the African Finance Corporation led by my brother, Zuberu Samaila, which ensured that the project was significantly derisked and AFREXIM bank for trusting us”, the governor stated.
He explained that the decision by his administration to turn the push factor from Lagos to the pull factor to Ogun, made it to introduce various policies and reforms, and also deploy technology to improve the efficiency of government and increase the state ranking on the ease of doing business index.
“Today, we are adjudged one of the safest, if not the safest state in the country. We have constructed over 400km of both interstate roads in three years and six months and it is worth mentioning that we have at least one road in every one of our 20 local government areas and we have built over 1200 affordable homes across the state creating jobs for artisans.
“We will be back here very soon to commission our international agro cargo airport in another few months and our deep sea port is also loading,” Governor Abiodun said.