It was a dream come true for the people of the Land of Honour as the Ekiti State Agro-Allied Passenger International Airport was inaugurated for public use shortly after the first aircraft landed at the facility on Saturday.
With the commissioning and landing of the first flight on its soil, Ekiti has joined the elite club of states in Nigeria that boast of a functional airport, which is expected to boost the export of agricultural produce, service educational and health institutions, and abundant tourism potentials in the state.
The first aircraft, ATR 42 Nigeria Air Force plane piloted by Flight Lieutenant E.A. Balogun, landed at the airport’s runway at exactly 10:20 a.m. amid cheers and excitement by eminent guests, government officials, and members of the public who came to witness the historic occasion.
Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, who performed the inauguration of the airport, was among the personalities on board the aircraft which flew from Abuja to make the historic landing on Ekiti soil.
Outgoing Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, expressed satisfaction that the project eventually saw the light of the day ten years after its conception during his first administration in 2012.
“My job is done, Ekiti Kete,” he said.
Dr. Fayemi also used the occasion to assure the people of the state that the federal roads in dilapidated condition would be given attention to bring relief to their users and complement the newly inaugurated airport project.
The Governor said he, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo; and the Ewi of Ado Ekiti, Oba Adeyemo Adejugbe, have been making strong representations to the Federal Government to facilitate urgent intervention on federal roads in the state that are in the present state of disrepair.
In his welcome address, Mr. Zhang Zichen, the Chairman of China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), which handled the project, explained that the airport is not just a project but “the engine of the economy of the state” said it would open up Ekiti to more development and investment to the benefit of the state and business community.
Aviation Minister Sirika also announced to the excited audience that the Federal Government would site a cargo facility at the airport. He described the Ekiti Airport as “an extremely very important project” which would in turn, facilitate the import and export of goods and commodities.
“35 per cent of global trade by value is moved through airports, and $18.6 billion of cargo is moved daily through air transportation. The wealthy among you should take to agriculture for example and begin to produce things that you will export to other parts of the world.
“You can be land-locked but you cannot be sky-locked. We can all see the importance of having a facility like this. Thank you Mr Governor, you have provided this facility for the people of Ekiti State; they should own it, they should own it,” he said.
The guests were later conducted on a facility tour around the terminal and other facilities at the airport.
Personalities who were present included the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo; the wife of the Governor, Erelu Bisi Fayemi; the Deputy Governor, Otunba Bisi Egbeyemi; Speaker, Ekiti State House of Assembly, Mr. Funminiyi Afuye; Nigeria’s Ambassador to the Netherlands, Dr. Eniola Ajayi; Representatives of Ekiti in Diaspora, traditional rulers, state lawmakers and officials from the Federal Ministry of Aviation.