All is now set for the concessioning of the Delta State-owned Asaba International Airport. Speaking this Wednesday after he was sworn in at the Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba, for a second term in office as governor of the state, Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa said towards this end, a Transaction Adviser was engaged by the State Government to advise and undertake all necessary steps that would lead to a successful and sustainable concession exercise. The Asaba International Airport was built by the immediate past governor of the state, Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan. Okowa, who was proud to announce that the airport, downgraded just before he assumed office in 2015, is now a category 6 airport that receives international flights, and is indeed now a major national carrier’s hub in the South-East and South-South geo-political zones.
According to the governor who posited that his renewed mandate was an invitation to raise the bar of good governance even higher and to surpass his achievements in his first term, said the government was now at the concluding stages of the process of concessioning the airport. “Two major Consortia have submitted bids, backed up with sizeable Bid Bonds. These bids are being analysed by our technical partners, and sooner than later, a preferred bidder will be selected and announced” Okowa stated. The governor expressed confidence that when the process is completed, “we would have actualised the original intentions for the development of Asaba International Airport, which is to activate an aviation Tank Farm; develop major cargo terminal and the associated logistics facilities, as well as develop the business park”. The Asaba International Airport had hosted several international flights before it was downgraded few days to the expiration of the Uduaghan administration.
As part of his wealth-creation agenda for the next four years in office, the governor said 19 new technical colleges would be established in 19 local government areas of the state, thus bringing to 25 the total number of technical colleges in the state, with one per local government area. To complement these, a fully functional vocational centre is also to be established in each of the 25 LGAs while the existing polytechnics would be reformed and repositioned to become hubs for technical manpower development. The governor said towards this end, entrepreneurial courses shall be introduced into their curriculum and made mandatory as a requirement for graduation. The overall objective is to consolidate, strengthen, and upscale his administration’s wealth creation agenda, the focus of which remains to liberate the spirit of enterprise in the people through skills acquisition germane to wealth creation and employment generation.
Provision of affordable houses for Deltans also ranks high on the list of the governor’s priorities in his second coming. The government’s successful collaboration with the Federal Government in this regard, through a Special Purpose Vehicle – Family Homes Funds Limited, had delivered 650 houses to the people. Buoyed by the success of this first phase, Okowa said his government was about to commence the implementation of the second phase of the project, which is expected to produce about 1,500 homes for Deltans with modern facilities in a mixed-income community. He explained that while the company, owned by the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority, provided a capital injection of N3.8 billion, Delta State Government provided the land and other logistics for the new housing development at Issele-Azagba for public/civil servants in the State. The houses were offered to interested persons at a minimum price of N3.5m. Okowa described the project as the single largest housing development in both the South-south and South-east part of Nigeria, stressing that “it represents a fine example of what can be achieved through effective collaboration and cooperation between the Federal Government and a State such as ours”.
The governor noted that apart from the provision of the much needed affordable homes for public/civil servants, the Issele-Azagba project created thousands of direct and indirect construction-related jobs for young men and women in the state who were engaged on site, adding that it also provided significant opportunities for local manufacturers of building and construction products such as doors, windows, and ironworks to do business and prosper. Okowa, a medical doctor by profession, promised that in the next four years, efforts would be geared at having a “well-equipped, functional and responsive” primary healthcare centre in each of the 270 wards of the state, while the Delta State University Teaching Hospital would be continuously upgraded to make it a true centre of excellence. This, he stated, is in line with his administration’s unwavering pursuit of its Health for all Deltans 9HeFAD). The governor who was sworn-in with his deputy, Kingsley Otuaro, a lawyer, by the state Chief Judge, Marshall Umukoro, said “we pledge to do our best to be deserving of your trust. Indeed, we are resolute in our quest to leave a legacy of a Delta State that is a front-runner in the federation. All we need are your prayers and full cooperation”. The inauguration ceremony was witnessed by a former governor of the state, James Onanefe Ibori, his erstwhile deputy, Benjamin Elue and his wife, Esther, as well as the immediate past deputy governor of the state, Amos Utuama, a professor of constitutional law, and senior advocate of Nigeria, SAN, and his wife, Nelly, amongst other dignitaries.