Oyo State Governor, ’Seyi Makinde, on Tuesday, received the inaugural flight of Air Peace in Ibadan, saying that the flights will uplift the airport and boost the economy of the state.
The governor also commissioned the Protocol Lounge constructed by the state government at the Ibadan Airport, Alakia, saying that the commissioning is a fulfilment of a long-held dream.
The governor, while commissioning the new Protocol Lounge, said that his administration has done a lot to upgrade the airport from category 5 to category 6.
A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, quoted him as saying that his administration will keep pushing until the airport gets to an international standard.
He said: "This day has finally come and it is exciting for us. We are opening the Lounge and also receiving the inaugural flight of Air Peace to Ibadan Airport.
"Well, it is a fulfillment of a long-held dream. Let me also appreciate Overland because they were here and kept the Airport open but we have been here and have seen situations where people missed the Overland flight because they have one flight in a day. And then, you have to go to Lagos for the next flight. So, we are excited today because part of what we said we are going to do as a government is to expand the economy of the state.
"Now, if you miss the Overland flight, you can always get on the Air Peace flight. And I am also certain that other airlines will start coming to this airport shortly.
"I believe Air Peace airline also will be operating one flight in a day for now but I look forward to huge passenger traffic and a review of that frequency as soon as possible.
"I remember the first time I met with the Air Peace crew and I also spoke to the chairman about having a flight out of Ibadan. What I didn’t know at that time was the fact that you are bringing a brand-new aircraft to service Ibadan-Abuja route. So, I want to say thank you for that.
"Well, we did not just get here. We had to put some things in place. This lounge we are opening today is one of them. During the heat of the pandemic, this airport was downgraded. We did not have a fire tender and we had to put few other things in place. We got the upgrade back from category 5 to category 6. And we will keep pushing until we get an international flight out of this airport.”
The governor maintained that his administration has awarded the contract for an aviation fuel storage and dispensing facility to an indigenous company operating in Ibadan in order to make airlines stay overnight and take off as early as 7 a.m. to other places around the country.
"There are few things we are still doing and we have awarded the contract to have at this airport an aviation fuel storage and dispensing facility. People may ask why we are doing this. I have had discussion with some of the airlines and they will love to stay here overnight and take off as early as 7 a.m. to other places around the country but they are not able to do that because they cannot refuel in Ibadan.
“Within the next twelve months, this will become a thing of the past. We awarded the contract to an indigenous company operating in Ibadan.
"We are also fixing the road coming to the airport. The main road from Gate through Onipepeye up to here is at over 50 per cent completion.
“Also, we are fixing the Airport /Ajia/Ife Road with a spur to Amuloko. We are also fixing the Akanran/Dagbolu up to the border with Ogun State. So, with those roads in place, people should not just fly into the airport but come into the town and see what is going on. They can see things, buy things and leave Ibadan.
"But if they don’t want to leave, we can also accommodate them in Ibadan because so many estates are springing up and this is going to serve as true alternative airport to Lagos.
“Our road networks will ensure that you get to anywhere within a very reasonable time. With the rail link in Ibadan, you can even stay here and work in Lagos.
"So, these are few of the many reasons that Ibadan Airport project is a viable one for us.”
The governor equally explained that his administration will continue to provide the necessary support and collaboration to Air Peace and the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, FAAN.
"On this note I want to say thank you to the authorities of the Airport, FAAN and all the people that have made this project possible.
"What we want Air Peace to take away from here is the fact that, we have dry port here, which means people from other parts of the country can avoid Apapa port. They can come here, clear their goods and return to their destination whether they are coming from the East or North, to save themselves 120km from here to Lagos.
"We also want people to come here, bring their goods, clear them here.
So, once these facilities are in place, if you operate cargo flight, Ibadan should be considered because it makes economic benefits to do that.
"So, I want to thank the good people of Oyo State for this flight. What this has done for us is that it has crashed the price of flight from Ibadan to Abuja. Now, with close to N30,000, you can fly in a brand new aircraft to Abuja. We will continue to provide the necessary support and collaboration with Air Peace and the FAAN."
In his remark, the chairman of Air Peace, Mr. Allen Onyema, said that with the assistance of the Governor Makinde-led administration, before November, Air Peace will start flying Ibadan-Kano and Kano-Ibadan; while also connecting the South-East from Enugu to Ibadan and Ibadan to Enugu as well as connecting the South-South, Port-Harcourt-Ibadan and Ibadan-Port-Harcourt.
He commended the governor for moving the state forward and doing everything possible to woo investors that would bring their resources to expand the economy of the state.
“Today is one of my happiest moments. This is like a homecoming for me. When I say homecoming, I mean it in every sense of that statement. Without Ibadanland, there may not have been an Allen Onyema – that may have been able to achieve certain things today.
“I made a promise sometime ago that we are going to start gradual operation to this place and I meant it. The governor has been very interested in moving this state forward. He is very interested in attracting investments to this place, hence what you are seeing today.
“In fact, beyond this, His Excellency and I have also muted the idea of not just doing Abuja flights or Lagos flights to Ibadan. Air Peace, in due course, with the support of this governor, who wants to see it happen in the immediate, Air Peace will, before November, start flying Ibadan-Kano and Kano-Ibadan; connecting the South-East from Enugu to Ibadan and Ibadan to Enugu; connecting the South-South, Port-Harcourt-Ibadan, Ibadan-Port-Harcourt.
“Hold me to my words, it will come to happen this year by God’s grace because when you meet the man at the helm of affairs who is interested in moving his people forward, you have no other option as a nationalist than to support whatever he is doing and to help my own brothers and sisters in the state."
Earlier, the Ibadan Airport Manager, Mrs. Tega Ayenuro, said that Governor Makinde has made a conspicuous difference in different facets of development of the Ibadan Airport, adding that he has spurred commitment and participation from all stakeholders as well as the management of FAAN.
She noted that the new Protocol Lounge will make the facilitation of VIPs and other government dignitaries seamless, ensuring orderliness and sanity in the area of facilitation within the airport.
"I am particularly delighted and thrilled by the aesthetics of the new Protocol Lounge. This is evidence of a working administration and an emphatic governor.
"The aforementioned as well as numerous others fixed, such as the procurement of equipment of the Terminal clinic, acquisition of the fire tender, donation of operational vehicle and other logistics support, too many to mention, were made possible by the undiluted passion of our enduring and amiable governor.
"Our governor has made a conspicuous difference in varying facets of development of this Airport. He has thereby spurred commitment and partisanship from all stakeholders as well as the management of FAAN.
"We are indebted to this rare commitment and to the people of Oyo State through infrastructural development, in spite of setback by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant economic downturn.”
The event had in attendance the Deputy Governor, Engr. Rauf Olaniyan, Speaker of the Oyo State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Debo Ogundoyin, Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Saliu Adetunji, Senator, representing Oyo South Senatorial District, Dr. Kola Balogun, Chief of Staff, Hon. Segun Ogunwuyi, Deputy Chief of Staff, Abdumojeed Mogbonjubola and other top government functionaries.