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Anambra Cargo Airport Mirage: Anambra On The Precipice —Igbo Renaissance Forum

The Danger Posed By The Deafening Silence Of Those Who Should Speak

PRESS STATEMENT

IGBO RENAISSANCE FORUM is a Pan Igbo Movement of committed Igbo sons and daughters set to bring back the full-fledged consciousness of TRUE IGBO BLOODLINES.

We wish to bring to the attention of Ndi Anambra both home and abroad that their state is in crisis!

We have been following events and trends in Anambra state for some time now, and the feedback is alarming.

An Igbo adage says that, “a goat does not give birth in tithers when an elder is at home.

Our attention was drawn to a COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT THE END OF THE FIRST MEETING OF THE ANAMBRA STATE ELDERS COUNCIL IN 2020 HELD AT THE GOVERNOR’S LODGE, AWKA, ON WEDNESDAY, MARCH 4, 2020, and we saw a very urgent need to ask that an emergency be declared by Ndi Anambra immediately, to salvage what is left of the state.

In attendance were, Governor Willie Obiano, FCA, KCSG; Chairman of the Anambra State Elders Council, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, GCON; and Chairman of the Anambra State Traditional Rulers Council, Igwe Nnaemeka A. Achebe, CFR, Obi of Onitsha amongst other dignitaries.

We read with shock and dismay, the very obvious untruths and the unapologetic, smooth candor with which these were dished out to Ndi Anambra in the Communique.

We would however want to restrict this press statement to the scam known as “Anambra International Cargo/Passenger Airport at Umueri”. We shall deal with other issues raised in the Communique in due course.

THE AIRPORT PROJECT AS ANAMBRA PEOPLE WERE TOLD:

On April 11, 2017, Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano made headlines with the story of a conceived Airport City Project in Umueri, Anambra East Local Government Area.

At the flag-off of the project, Anambra Governor, Willie Obiano boasted that the project was far beyond just an airport. He announced with glee, that the project was an airport city project (Aerotropolis), which asides seeing to the touching down of flights from all over Nigeria and beyond, would also provide services like maintenance of airplanes; which is a rare service, while the deep oil reserve in Aguleri Otu community, where Orient Petroleum Company is domiciled, would offer services like refueling of aircrafts.

The project which is estimated to cost more than $2 billion is for the development, under a Build, Operate, Manage & Transfer (BOMT) arrangement of an Airport City (Aerotropolis).

According to the original arrangement as stated by the Willie Obiano administration, the Chinese company, Sinoking is contributing 75%, Orient Oil 20% while Anambra state government puts in 5% in equity.

It is significant to note at this point that the 5% equity contribution by Anambra state is in the area of land provision, building of access roads and creating enabling environment.

Ndi Anambra were told that the project will create 1200 direct jobs and over 3,600 indirect jobs.

THE CRUX OF THE MATTER – THE ELDERS COUNCIL ENDORSEMENT OF FAILURE

Part of the Communique issued by the Elders Council and signed by the Chairman, Chief Emeka Anyaoku GCON and Professor Solo Chukwudebelu, Secretary to the State Government reads, “The Council was comprehensively briefed on the building of Anambra International Cargo/Passenger Airport at Umueri in Anambra East Local Government Area. Members were satisfied with the pace of work, the choice of internationally reputable contractors in the construction and the 15-month deadline to deliver the airport and the business prospects of the airport. Members also expressed delight that the airport will be completed without a loan”.

1. We are shocked beyond words that the members of the Anambra State Elders Council, Chaired by Chief Emeka Anyaoku GCON after being comprehensively briefed, could be satisfied with:

A. The pace of work
B. The choice of internationally reputable contractors
C. The construction to be delivered within the 15 months deadline
D. The business prospects of the airport
E. The airport being completed without a loan

We want to unreservedly and unequivocally state without any iota of uncertainty that the five points of satisfaction as stated above and expressed by the Anambra State Elders Council is NOT THE TRUE POSITION OF THE AIRPORT PROJECT, and calls for immediate response to Ndi Anambra by the Elders Council for this strange posturing by them.

PACE OF WORK: – ABYSMALLY SLOW AND WITHOUT FOCUS

1. On April 11th 2017, Governor Willie Obiano told Ndi Anambra at the flag off that the airport project was expected to be completed in 36 months, which would be in April 2020.

2. As at April 2019, 24 months into the 36 months deadline for delivery of the project, the only sign of activity at the airport site was the clearing of the large expanse of land before the flag off on April 11th 2017.

3. On November 27th 2019, while speaking during the third Anambra Business and Investment Roundtable at the Governor’s Lodge, Amawbia, Governor Willie Obiano gave a totally new completion date of 18 months.

4. It is interesting to note that as at November 2019, we had 5 months to the end of the original deadline of 36 months, counting from April 2017 when the project was flagged off.

5. It is shocking that barely one month to the end of the original 36 months deadline, the government of the state is receiving a pat on the back without anything on ground nor an explanation as to why we have to wait beyond the original deadline of April 2020.

6. Ndi Anambra are being taken for granted with another story of 18 months without telling them why the initial deadline was not met.

7. We cannot as at this time, with the way this project is being handled say that the newly touted completion deadline is feasible.

CHOICE OF INTERNATIONALLY REPUTABLE CONTRACTORS: – AN UNMITIGATED DISASTER

1. We would want to state categorically that the government of Anambra state has not been very open with the issues surrounding the contractor and the contractual agreements relating to this airport project.

2. In October, 2019, the State commissioner for works, Mr Marcel Ejiofor told journalists in a news conference in Awka that the state government made provision of N6 billion in the proposed 2020 budget because the Chinese company was still wasting time, and the governor needed to start doing something since he had already promised the people an airport.

3. We wish to ask why a time-wasting company would be referred to as “a company of international repute”.

4. We want to know what clauses in the Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) took care of penalties for default as the contractors are already in breach going by the fact that Anambra state has to use its own 6 billion to take off on a job that should be delivered in about a month’s time from the original agreements in April 2017.

5. We make bold to say that there is no integrity tied to the contractor and the project in any form or manner, and eulogizing such an erring contractor is highly unacceptable to people of good conscience.

THAT THE CONSTRUCTION SHALL BE DELIVERED WITHIN THE 15 MONTHS DEADLINE: – AKIN TO SELLING FAKE AND EXPIRED DRUGS TO NDI ANAMBRA

1. Before we go stretching our necks towards another 15 months of waiting, we need to get an appropriate explanation as to why the original deadline of April 2020 was not met.

2. What is the current state of the project site?

3. Is contractor mobilized to site?

4. We are very confident that, with the level of activities on the site and on the access roads leading into the project site that there is no way the 15 months deadline would be met.

THE BUSINESS PROSPECTS OF THE AIRPORT: – ELUSIVE DAYDREAMS

1. The only group that enjoys any prospects from that 1500-acre site are FULANI HERDSMEN who graze their cows there.

2. Rather than employ any Anambra indigene directly or indirectly as bandied around, the farmers have been thrown out of jobs as the land that would have been cultivated was taken for the elusive airport project, while herders are making gains from same land.

3. Indigenes whose homes were razed, and who had high hopes of a thriving economic burst in the area and job opportunities for their community are now left dejected and depressed without any sign of hope in the horizon.

4. Our conclusion is that there is no visible nor viable business prospect for Ndi Anambra from this “ABSTRACT AIRPORT PROJECT’, and we demand that the Anambra Airport Project, Umueri be investigated forensically by an external body to clear the inherent doubts cast by the handling of the project from the onset.

THAT THE AIRPORT WOULD BE COMPLETED WITHOUT A LOAN: – INSULT ADDED TO THE INJURY INFLICTED ON NDI ANAMBRA

1. On the day of Flag Off of the project, Governor Willie Obiano made it very abundantly clear that, “Under the contractual agreement, Elite International Investments Limited will provide all the funds needed for the project under the Build-Operate-Manage-and-Transfer arrangement.

2. We would like to know if this statement was made in error, knowing that the Governor presented a 6 billion expenditure on the airport project in the 2020 budget for a job that was supposed to be on a Build, Operate, Manage & Transfer (BOMT) agreement.

3. CAPA – Centre for Aviation, one of the world’s most trusted sources of market intelligence for the aviation and travel industry has on their website that, “September-2019 Anambra’s Government allocated NGN6 billion (USD16.5 million) for the construction of Umueri Cargo Airport as part of the state’s 2020 budget.

4.The State Commissioner for works, Mr Marcel Ejiofor in a news conference in Awka in October 2019 told jurnalists that, “The governor is a man of his words, and since he had already promised the people a cargo airport, he did not want to go back on his words, so, he budgeted N6billion for the project in the 2020 budget. “There is a foreign partner, and they are sorting out their funding, as we wait for them, the government will be doing something, and when they eventually come, they will balance us our money.

5. Is the above statement by the Commissioner for works what is written in the MOU? If not, this goes to say that Anambra state is in dire straits!

6. If the contractor is not able to raise financing to kickstart the construction on site as agreed, is it not for the government to invoke relevant clauses in the MOU that should take care of breaches from both parties and disengage the contractor, while engaging another firm with the capability to deliver?

7. Why are there no legal implications in such a full timeline breach?

8. It is sad that few weeks to the 36 months deadline, after an MOU was signed between the Anambra state government and the contractors, it is only billboards proclaiming the coming of the airport and long, winding statements that we have seen and no sign of any airport!

CONCLUSION

1. We demand that the Anambra State Elders Council address Ndi Anambra on these issues raised above.

2. That the Anambra State Elders Council convene a stakeholders forum to ascertain first-hand, the status of the Umueri Airport Project, and not a documentary package played back to them as stated in the Communique.

3. We find it strange that the airport project is gulping such a whooping and humongous quantity of cash, and would want to agree with the former Minister for Aviation, Osita Chidoka’s position in 2017 that we need to review this project. He posited at that time that, “I totally disagree with the airport proposal. Anambra does not need an airport for $2.2 billion when the Federal Government used $500 million to build four terminals.

4. We shall give reasonable time for the Elders Council to respond and react to these issues.

5. It is the response from the Anambra State Elders Council that would inform our next line of action.

6. We want to state that the era of taking the citizens for granted has passed, and the citizens shall do all in their power to ensure that our commonwealth is not frittered away through seemingly, white elephant projects.

Signed:

Nze Ugo-Akpe Onwuka (Oyi)
INTERNATIONAL COORDINATOR
E-mail: igborenaissanceforum@gmail.com

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