STIMULATING ECONOMIC GROWTH:ONDO STATE/AIR PEACE EXAMPLE

Aviation, no doubt, is a catalyst to economic development. Whoever doubts this should watch the unfolding development in the partnership between the Ondo State and Air Peace Airline to grow the economy of the former.

Since its creation, the state had remained locked up, though with potentials in agricultural produce and petroleum deposits that have remained essentially untapped thus leaving the state relatively poor and heavily dependent on allocations from the federal coffers.  However, thanks to the location of an airport in its state capital, Akure, a facility the present administration is taking advantage of to turn around the fortunes of the state economy with a view to making more self-sustaining than hitherto and at a time the administration at the centre is compelled by a shrinkage in the returns for oil export due to what economists refer to as recession in global economy.

Air transportation, because of its intrinsic value of being the fastest of the transportation modes available, connects destinations within the shortest possible time. Bearing this in mind therefore, the administration of Governor RotimiAkeredolu (SAN) went into partnership with one of the country’s foremost and growing indigenous carriers, Air Peace, to explore means to develop a state with a locked up economy.

Talks began with the governor’s Special Assistant on Investment leading other government officials to meet with the airline’s management led by its Chairman, Allen Onyema, coincidentally of the same law profession as the state chief executive. Following fruitful and frank discussions followed by agreements signed, Air Peace commenced flight operations from Lagos, often dubbed West Africa’s commercial nerve centre, into Akure airport, a once idle aerodrome thus opening up the state to industrialists and business moguls not only from different parts of Nigeria but the entire globe.

The first of such landmark flight operations touched down last August 13 thus turning the facility into a haven of activities. Prior to this development, flights, apart from chartered ones and those operated by government, seldom landed there. However, in the last two months, the situation has changed; the prospect of turning around the fortunes of the airport is in the horizon as the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) will soon start raking in revenue from the recent upswing of activities at the facility. FAAN will not be the only beneficiary; Ondo State, in particular, and Nigeria, in general, will stand to be the ultimate beneficiaries.

The gesture of the Air Peace Airline is coming, not without pains as management says it is difficult to operate such flights at this stage with an air fare of just N10,000.00, but as Onyema would say:” it is worth the price tag of a trail blazer.”

Ondo State is purely an agrarian state with some of the agricultural products available in the state in high demand overseas. However, the roads linking the state to the ports in Lagos are riddled with potholes coupled with the menace of armed robbers and kidnappers. Also, another fact that renders the state potentially great economically is the untapped deposit of bitumen lying in the state. The deposit, considered one of the world’s largest, will further boost the nation’s economy when prospecting eventually takes off.

The discussions that led Air Peace Airline to commence operations into Akure Airport, we hear, were encouraging because of the “sincerity of the airline and its CEO, Barrister Allen Onyema, for his great work and decision to assist the state government to turn its potentials into veritable wealth.”

While commending Air Peace for its gesture, the State Chief Executive said: “Modern and developed economies are built around aviation and with Air Peace flying into Akure, before long, our state will experience a robust economic turnaround.”

According to him, the move would, no doubt, stimulate industrial and technological growth as well as uplift the state economically as more airlines would contemplate following the trail of Air Peace.

Already, an appeal has gone to the citizens of the state to reciprocate the gesture of Air Peace management by taking advantage of the airline’s services and cheap fares to avoid the hazards of travelling by road, Governor Akeredolu stressed that the airline was bridging the gap and opening up the state to massive investment, exports and commercial activities.

He noted that the N10,000 fare Air Peacecharges was unbeatable, saying that it was more of a humanitarian service of some sort to accelerate the growth and development of Ondo State in particular and Nigeria, in general.