Mr Steve Otaloro, the Director, Media and Publicity of the All Progressive Party (APC) in Ondo State, on Monday lauded the efforts of Gov. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu in revamping the Akure Airport.
Otaloro that the move was necessitated by “heartwarming” statistics in the aviation sector of the world economy.
According to him, the aviation industry has demonstrated stable growth in the last decade, which suggests the possibility of continued expansion in the years to come.
“For instance, revenue in the global aviation industry grew at a compound annual growth rate of around 5.3 per cent between 2009 and 2019, reaching 838 billion U.S. dollars in 2019.
“Gov. Akeredolu had immediately tapped into the almost non-existent sector in the state when he came on board in Feb. 24, 2017 as the Governor of Ondo State.
“The newly energised Akure Airport by the administration of Akeredolu has surpassed all expectations.
“The Akure Airport expansive land, which spans several acres, is a wonder to behold.
“Tucked in an agrarian community in Akure South Local Government area of Ondo State, the airport is a few kilometres from Akure metropolis, the state capital.
“This humongous landmass airport is three times bigger in landmass than the MMA in Lagos,’’ he said.
Otaloro said that in 2013, the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) had designated 13 airports as perishable cargo airports in a bid to transform the aviation sector into a major revenue earner for the country.
According to him, the Akure Airport is one of them and promises by FAAN to develop it to international standard of perishable cargo facilities to enhance operations didn’t materialise.
He explained that the airport, built by the Federal Government in 1986 as a domestic airport for commercial airlines operation, was meant to serve Ondo and other neighbouring states, including Ekiti and Osun.
The APC chieftain said that the governor, when he came on board, had a clear vision for the airport in spite of the skeletal services in the airport.
He said that the low patronage from domestic airlines in the country did not acknowledge the airport as commercially viable for them to operate.
According to him, Gov. Akeredolu brought in Peace Airline with the intention of transporting passengers from Akure to Abuja and from Akure to Lagos at subsidised rate charged on every passenger.
Olatoro said, “The Ondo Government also helped in creating public awareness for the airline and facilitated advertorials for their patronage.
“Akeredolu took it upon himself, the role of the spokesperson of the airline, advocating on behalf of the airline, using the weight of his office to talk to people why it is easier and more convenient to fly than to travel by road.
“This public enlightenment campaign resonated with the people and led to noticeable increases in the number of passengers.
“Subsequently, it increased the flight at the Akure Airport route, significantly, from its initial two flights a week to daily commercial passengers flights.
“As a response to high interest in the aviation sector in the state, the number of trips by the airline increased sharply from the rate of two times a week flights to daily flights.”
He said that the number of airlines operating in the state had also increased from one to three airlines, and all disenplaned passengers from Abuja to Akure and from Lagos to Akure.
“At the same time, enplaning passengers from same route to the commercial capital of Nigeria, Lagos and the Federal Capital, Abuja, on daily basis.
“These routes have, at present, become profitable for the airline operators and holds the records at the fastest growth rate in the aviation industry in Nigeria.
“This new development has positive impact on the economy of the state, because of the increased GDP growth rate,” he said.
Otaloro said that with the success recorded by the airport, Gov. Akeredolu had since proposed building a new and bigger passenger terminal at the airport.
“This is to cater for the huge influx of passengers in the state and from the neighboring states of Ekiti and Osun to buy airfare to travel to the nation’s capital in Abuja and the commercial hub of Lagos, while, also, returning same day to Akure.
According to him, the constant flight of airplanes at a very low altitude before take off at the Akure Airport, and while landing, has also created a tourism-like sight attraction for people living around the vicinity.
In addition, he said that it had boosted the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).
“Importantly, the re-energised airport, which is a monument and a landmark that cannot be ignored, is a great source of IGR to the `Sunshine State,” Otaloro said.