Ebonyi state indigenes living in diaspora, on the platform of Organisation of Ebonyi State Indigenes in the Diaspora (OESID) have rejected plan by tbeir state governor to embark on a construction of an international Airport in the state, describing it as “a white elephant project difficult at achieve at the moment.”
The group, however, called on governor Dave Umahi, to prioritise projects that will have direct impacts on the people and “not the one with ulterior motive.
In a statement signed Thursday in Abuja by the spokesman of the group, Ambassador Paschal Olochukwu Ogbonna, the group said while the estimated value of the project has not been made public, “it is trite knowledge that building an international airport usually involves colossal amounts of money which may not be unavailable to the state government at the moment. Chances are, the resources would invariably be borrowed either locally or most likely from Chinese and other international financers.
“But even if these funds were available to the Ebonyi state government, the organization of Ebonyi State Indigenes in the Diaspora insist that spending it to build an international airport is a gross misapplication of resources,” the group said.
According to the statement, there are better and more people oriented investment that will impact on the development of the state than building an airport that will serve only vested interests.
Paschal said putting the entire cost of building the airport into strengthening public education and public healthcare infrastructure will impact positively much more on the society and economy of Ebonyi state.
The statement described the project as “a clout chasing endeavor by the state governor David Umahi, who clearly has other ulterior motives in initiating this project.”
It also advised the Ebonyi state governor to concentrate the attention of his administration in pursuing “people oriented projects that will directly impact lives of the citizens of the state rather than embarking on this expensive and needless adventure.
“The proposal to sink gigantic amounts of money into building an international airport for Ebonyi state at a time when major strides in human development, poverty eradication and efficient healthcare delivery systems are sorely needed, demonstrates Governor Umahi’s total loss of touch with the reality of modern governance.
“The majority of people are struggling to cope with basic human needs such as food to eat, water to drink, schools to attend and healthcare facilities to visit that diverting their limited resources to construct such a white-elephant project is the height of irresponsible governance.”
The group called on the governor to rethink the project and drop the idea forthwith.
Paschal added that with Enugu International Airport less than an hour away from Abakaliki and similar facilities in Owerri, Calabar and Uyo within reasonable driving distances, the construction of an International airport in Ebonyi is clearly not a viable economic model.
The statement advised the state government to focus its attention in revamping state owned institutions and developing a model of governance that should be evenly felt by all in the state.
“Building an international airport will lead to a forceful takeover of community lands currently being used by small holder farmers in rural areas to help them cope with the debilitating hardships of our time. This will negatively impact on the rural economy and may lead to other unforeseen challenges in the proposed host communities of the airport.
Paschal pointed out that the proposed International Airport Project has already demoralized the people of Aguogboriga and Umuoghara communities, in Ezza North Local Government Area, who went out on protest against the siting of the airport in their community.
“Their grouses included the fact that the airport project is cutting across deprived and neglected communities that are being further pauperized by the forceful acquisition of their ancestral lands for a project that will not help them.
“When you have the unfortunate mixture of Ebonyi states’ legendary record of poor internally generated revenue and paltry allocation from the federation accounts, with pervasive levels of poverty the most responsible path to take is to tore a line of prudence and efficient utilization of scarce resources for the greater good of all. The path chosen by Governor Umahi will not serve the developmental strides of Ebonyi State. It is important that he beats a retreat and cancel this international airport project.”
The statement called on elites and prominent sons and daughters of the state to call the governor to order and make him see reasons why he should get his priorities right and focus on people oriented programs.