The Senate Committee on Aviation has approved the rehabilitation of eight airstrips across the country.
The committee’s chairman, Senator Smart Adeyemi (APC, Kogi), disclosed this, on Friday, while presenting his panel report on the 2022 budget before the Appropriations Committee.
He said the rehabilitation of the airstrips has become imperative to curb excessive spending and enable the people to move around the country, especially the hinterland.
He said most airports in Nigeria, aside those in Lagos, Abuja and few others, were elephant projects and could not boost of 100,000 passengers in a year.
He, therefore, urged state governments to stop wasting billions on building airports but consider a functional airstrip, which only requires N1bn or N2bn to construct.
He listed the eight airstrips proposed for rehabilitation to include: Uli-Okija (Anambra) Bida (Niger), Zuru (Kebbi), Zaria (Kaduna), Kotangora (Niger), Ajaokuta, (Kogi) Irrhua (Edo) and Mubi (Adamawa) airstrips.
Senator Adeyemi said, “We must not have, or planning of having a full fledged airport in many cities of Nigeria but we could have airstrips that will enable people to move around the country.
“The Covid-19 has made it imperative to start thinking of accelerating the economic development of the country. That is why the airstrips must be rehabilitated. We only need N1bn or N2bn to construct a functional airstrip.
“Whether an airport is having a terminal of N10bn or N20bn does not matter. What matters is that it must have a good landing facility. If we have a good runway for an airstrip, it may not be able to accommodate a Boeing series but it could accommodate a shuttle flight of 50 passengers, which is okay.
“We don’t need a Boeing series that would be looking for 100 passengers to take off. If we have a 50-seater aircraft, it could land and pick 30 passengers at no loss. But if you are waiting for a Boeing series before you construct airport, you are not helping the Nigerian nation.
“We should not be looking at aviation from the level of America. We have to graduate and the way to do it is to have airstrip in place.”
However, the vice chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Stella Oduah, countered Adeyemi, saying Nigeria could never have enough airport to serve its population of over 200 million people.
Oduah, who is a former Aviation minister, said any state that finds it viable as a business model should be encouraged to build airport.
“Private sector involvement in aviation is the right way to go and the global best practice,” she said.