By Stephen Ubanna
Given the high level of insecurity across the country and the continuous kidnap o government officials and their relations, including oil workers, in Bayelsa state may have informed why Seriake Dickson, a Senator of Federal Republlic of Nigerian and former a governors of the south-south state of Bayelsa, had started the Yenagoa , International Airport which was inherited by Douye Diri, , who incidentally was a one-time Seators and completed for use for Commercial flights.
Inintially, people from nearby states of Rivers and Delta, had criticized the Execution of the airport project because of its closeness to the PortHarcourt International Airport international Airport, Omogwa, Rivers state is and the Asaba airport. They believe that two south-south states airport could serve the needs of the state. Unknown to many, former President Goodluck Jonathan , was in support of Bayelsa state having its own airport instead of flying into the state through PortHarcourt International Airport Asaba airport, giving the strategic importance of the state to the country’s oil production and export.
The Bayelsa government was said to have pursued the project with all seriousness with the active support of officials of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigerian, FAAN, officials. Given an insider information about the execution of the Yeanagoa airport project, an elated Senator Diri, the state governor, had revealed that the project ‘’ was the culmination of the aspirations that was berthed by Late Dipreye Alamieyesiegha, a one –time governor of the state.
Dickson, his immediate Predecessor was said to have started the N14 billion project, that was approved by the Federal Executive Council, FEC, in 2012, during the Administration of Jonathan but the state government was said to completed it with the sum of N56 billion.
. Although, Senator Dickson, did a good job , while in office, in the eye of his loyalists, that should win him an award, the former People’s Democratic Party, PDP, governor of the state, may have run into trouble with the Abdulrashee Bawa led Economic Financial Crime Commission over Corruption, EFCC, over Corruption allegations bordering’ on’’ abuse of office and misapropriation of public funds during his eighht year- year rule’’. It was not surprising why the Commission has invited him for interrogation in their Abyja, Headquarters.
The allegations according to informed sources also relate to the issues of assets declarations and misapplication of Federal government Intervention Funds and other assets belonging to the state government. Senator, Diri who had inherited the multi-billion naira project for the Dickson Administration had completed it for resumption of Commercial flight operations to the airport.
Ibukun Omatayo, an Air Vice Marshall, AVM, and, Commanding Officer, Mobility Command of the Nigeria Air Force, NAF, and his team, may have given officials of the Bayelsa government cause to be optimistic that the Yenagoa airport is ready for use in May 2020.
The Airforce Chief , has every reason to give officials of the Bayelsa governmet such confidence , having been making use of the airport for its operations without problem. He was said to have assured Diri, the Bayelsa state governor, that they would do everything within their capacity’’ to know what can be added to facilitate its Licensing by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCCA, for Commencement of flight operations into the state Capital’’.
True his words, last April, the NCCA, gave the green light to FAAN, that Commercial flight operations to the Yenagoa airport should begin having met all the airspace international standards to guarantee flight Safety. The approval may have given the state government the encouragement to sign a Memorandum of Understanding, MOU, with United Nigeria Airlines, UNA, owned by Obiora Okonkwo, in June for the Commencement of the Commercial flight to the airport.
Recall that the Bayelsa state government ha equally entered into such a deal with the Akwa state government in May 2021, for the Ibom Air to commence commercial flight operations at the airport with its 50-Seater aircraft. But when the airport was finally thrown open for flight operations on Thursday, August 12, 2021, UNA, aircraft, which was said to have left the MM2, had landed at yenagoa airport, fuelling speculations making the rounds that Ibom Air, owned by the Akawa Iom state government , may have been dropped. Thousands of people were said to have trooped out to the airport to catch a glimpse of the UNA flight at the imposing airport
The UNA aircraft was said to have landed at airport with top flight Passengers from the state. They included Diri, the state governor, Blessing Oborududu, the Bayelsa state born, Tokyo Olympics Silver Medalist, Alfred Diete Spiff, a Lt. CDR. rtd, and former governor of old Rivers state and now the Amayanabo of Twon Brass Community, where NAOC, Crude oil export terminal , is located , Ambassador Boladei Igali including Senators, members of the House of Representatives and state Legislators. The Commissioners serving the Diri, government and other top dignitaries from the state were not left out in the maiden flight. The maiden UNA, Flight, to the Yenagoa airport may have been more interesting as Obiora Okonkwo, the Chairman of the airline was also in the flight.
The Bayelsa governor may have taken advantage of the successful landing of the UNA, flight at the airport to inform the people of the state that’’ the airport project holds great potentials for the state economic growth and development’’. He may have gladdened the heart of the people who were eager to know when the actual Commercial flight would resume when he said ‘’it would Commence in two weeks based on the bookings made’’.
He was said to have told the people that ’’they can book online or at the Airport of departure’’. The governor had said that for now ‘’the usual Commercial flights would be from Lagos to Yenagoa and from Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, to Yenagoa International airport.
The Value News learnt that with the governor’s declaration that Passengers could book online or at the airport of departure, may ,have the rush by passengers, mostly Lawmakers, who want to be close close to their Constituencies ahead of the February 18, 2023, general elections, to do so, to fill the available space in the UNA aircraft instead of boarding flights going to PortHarcourt or Asaba airports and completing the journey to Yenagoa by road.
There are indications that other airlines like Air Peace, Arik, Alied, among others, are watching the situation on ground before finally scheduling their flights on the Lagos Yenagoa and Abuja –Yenagoa routes to break the monopoly of UNA, airline.