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On Benue CARGO Airport Launch & Matters Arising




By Steve Aho

I have made efforts to stay away from making comments on governance in recent times and I am not a promoter of this government but I have to say this. For the records, Benue needs a cargo port! You can argue about the times we are in, the amount involved and the sighting of the project. But over and above this considerations, we need a cargo airport.

I have personally drafted ideas about this project about 10 years ago, I christened my idea "Agroport", a free trade zone of some sort. I kept this to my chest to make document available only to a government that I can trust it's players and seriousness. I have not spoken to this government on this. But I am more than happy that a similar idea is now mainstream and government is openly pushing through with the it in confident terms. We need a cargo port by and large.
The questions, I suppose, are:
1. Is it the project timely?
Yes it is. This is because we are edging out of depending on oil to run our economy. We are almost in a regime of resource control and we need to be proactive. Quite projectively, States would soon be told to look inwards, identify their areas of strength and exploit same to run and sustain their monthly wage bills. We have our area of comparative advantage in agriculture. Can we ensure our famers get more value out of agriculture? Yes, and that can be done by ensuring we use that sector as our source of foreign exchange. We have a denominator that can play in the international commodity. We can improve on seedlings (University of Agriculture Makurdi is here), scale of production and packaging. My take is if we have now realized that we can play with the idea, I see nothing wrong. It is better to try than to sit and wail without taking a step.

2. Is it achieveable?
I won't want to speak for the proponents of this project. But come to think of it, it is achievable if we as a people want. Why do I say this? It is a public project for the people. We can support and we can criticize every stage of the implementation. We can keep the implementers on their toes and nudge them on. I understand that it is a Public Private Partnership with minimal effort required on the part of government. The entire cost is N38bn and government is expected to support with about N5.7bn in addition to land already provided. Government has provided land already. Between now and 2020, government cannot say they are unable to provide the equity if they are committed. What we need is focus and vigilance on the part of the public-mainstream and opposition- is needed. I believe in the good of all and this project deserves support even if it is the only thing that can come out of this 4 years. Every journey begins with a step. And by the way, CDC Consortium is the company that will sweet it out to deliver on this project if I get it right. They are the ones who have staked more; they are the ones to ensure all is well in time in other for them to get return on their investment.

3. Does CDC have a history?
Honestly I am yet to research the company and their involvement in similar projects. I believe with time someone or even myself would find time to undertake an expose on CDC. If the company has a track record, then we all can go to sleep. If not, it is our duty to inform government and police them to ensure we don't get the best deal for an ambitious project like the cargo port adventure. Let us dig for facts and be quick to share for the good of our dear Benue State.

4. Is the location suitable?
I am not an expert on business locations. But those who are in the business can help out. My thinking is that it is in the centre. Zones A, B, C and our neighbouring States can easily gravitate towards this market if they compare the present costs they face. Besides if the allure of directly accessing foreign exchange on their produce is anything to go by, we can be sure the business will come to our door steps.

Steve Aho is a positive attitude promoter and writes free of charge from Makurdi.

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