by Usman Alabi
That’s the question I kept asking myself when I got the news, what exactly does Benue need an airport for? Can her economy support an airport, what is the logic behind such ludicrous project? Usually the excuse governors give is that the airport would bring about economic advancement and springing up of several economic activities; but what they also fail to understand is that an airport also needs a requisite level of economic activities, and environment to support it. So I ask again, does Benue have that kind of boisterous economy that can support a cargo airport beyond the fact of her overstated agricultural advantage?
The mainstay of Benue’s economy is Agriculture, there is no doubting the fact that it is an agric giant, but is that a justification for the construction of a cargo airport in a state that has little or no urban life, where the government is the largest employer which is likely not to change soon.
Why cargo airport to export agricultural produce? you wonder why our leaders still think in the light of exportation of primary produce rather than production and processing of these raw materials. The governor could spend the same amount of money to have processing plants and factories in the state where agricultural produce could be processed into finished goods rather than exporting them directly abroad. The state should realize that it is more beneficial to process raw agricultural materials into usable finished output than to export them directly, because eventually you pay a lot more to buy the finished processed goods that come from these primary produce than the amount you get when you sell them at the primary stage.
Our governors must begin to think in terms of strategic long-term advantage not in terms of just having a big project attached to their names. There is no problem if Benue state could have a joint agreement with Nasarawa state to upgrade their own airport to that status or even make use of that for now rather than expending such huge amount of money on an elephantine project which has no forward and backward linkage. Benue state does not have the necessary infrastructure to support an airport of such magnitude for now.
The governor said he envisaged the springing up of industries, power plants, estates and other economic activities as part of the airport project. This is devoid of any clear economic calculation and logic, it is easier for Lagos to say this than a state like Benue, you must be deliberate about every move not envisaging. The construction of a cargo airport does not necessarily bring these advantages; there are other factors that must be put into consideration and that must be available. Some States have airport, in fact what you can call an international airport but they have not been able to fulfill the reason behind their construction simply because those who initiated them have the kind of assumption that Ortom has. They assumed that having an airport would automatically lead to springing up of economic activities.
Hence, the state must for now concentrate on what it has comparative advantage on, modernize and mechanize agriculture to make it more attractive, build processing plants and industries to process agricultural raw materials, invest in agricultural research institute to encourage scientific investigations that would lead to break through for the benefit of the state, If it needs an airport to export its product, it could have an arrangement with neigbouring state like Nasarawa on the use of its own airport.
The bottom line is that Benue should have a developmental philosophy that is systemic and carries its population along and that also puts into consideration what it has comparative advantage on.