The location of Makurdi Airport in Benue State makes it pertinent for its elevation from a local to international airport. Some weeks back it was widely celebrated that commercial flights to Abuja had commenced, but it was obvious it would serve majorly the needs of politicians. The following reasons make it mandatory for a Makurdi International Airport.
Firstly, Makurdi is located within the proximity of academic communities that includes Benue State University Makurdi, University of Agriculture Makurdi, University of Mkar Gboko, Federal Universities of Wukari and Lafia as well as Kogi State University, Anyigba and many other higher institutions. Academics are known to travel widely for international conferences, workshops, annual general meetings, seminars, symposiums and other academic activities holding in other countries. The central and proximal location to these academic communities makes it a hub for international travel by the lecturers and administrators in this area and around the country. Academic travel is an important and substantial component of air travel in most countries that would make Makurdi a viable international airport.
Secondly, Benue State where Makurdi serves as the capital is a well known “Food Basket of the Nation”. By this, it implies that the bulk of food or agricultural produce in the country comes from the State and there is sufficient for export. International cargo planes can airlift the agricultural produce to other countries from Makurdi International Airport. Time there was when it was asserted that Benue yams bought here in Nigeria were being airlifted from one of the West African coutries to European markets. This is clear evidence that what we could not do ourselves was being done by our brothers and sisters elsewhere to get value from the sweat of our local farmers. Whether the internationalization of Makurdi Airport is a political juggernaut or other reasons, there is no cause for celebration over the commencement of local commercial flights to Abuja but a step towards upgrading. Fruits and vegetables from the Makurdi ecological zone can be exported through the Makurdi International Airport.
Thirdly, the location of some industries in the area that would require vital shipment of spare parts to them at short notices makes the need for Makurdi International Airport in the geopolitical area. More so expatriate personnel for these industries would have greater access to these facilities. Some of these industries include cement, breweries, beverage, metal foundries, agro-based and a host of others. Some of the products of these industries may need to be airlifted by cargo or regular planes to market destinations abroad. Fourthly, the zone and areas within the proximity of Makurdi Airport boasts of a large population of worshippers who go on regular pilgrimages to Mecca, Rome and Jerusalem. The establishment of a Makurdi International Airport would ease their air travel difficulties and make the spiritual exercise comfortable.
Fifthly, a Makurdi International Airport would lead to the attraction of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from investors in agriculture, mining, commerce, industries and other potential areas of the area in collaboration with local partners. Diaspora from the area would also have easier access to home and it would stimulate them to invest locally as well. In addition, upgrading Makurdi Airport into an international hub, would attract the establishment of consulates, maintenance hangars, generate jobs and ease the movement of people, goods and services.
In conclusion, given the above reasons, there is the need to upgrade Makurdi Airport into an International hub that would benefit the zone and proximal areas of the country.
– Emmanuel Tyokumbur, Department of Zoology, University of Ibadan, Ibadan.