When President Goodluck Jonathan commissions the new Bauchi International Airport (BIA) in the coming days, it will be only the fifth of its kind in Nigeria after the Murtala Muhammad International Airport, Lagos, the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, the Malam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano and the Port-Harcourt International Airport.
Governor Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State would once more score a silent but very significant goal. The BIA is the first of its kind in the entire Northeast geopolitical zone comprising Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe States.
These six states comprise almost one quarter of the nation’s landmass and are a veritable agricultural region with immense but poorly patronised tourism potential. They also suffer the designation of the poorest states in the country. In recent years, grinding poverty and unemployment among their citizens has exploded into youth insurgency and wanton criminality. Urgent steps to restore enduring peace and progress require provision of services that would facilitate rapid industrial and commercial growth. It is one zone that has been long overdue for an international airport of such standard to raise the level of socioeconomic activity and provide a gateway for local and international businesses to invest.
In Bauchi State alone, an international airport would open up the internationally famous Yankari Games Reserve by bringing in millions of tourists annually.
Similarly, the potential for job creation and other economic benefits in availing investors easy access to the rich agricultural and solid minerals mining sector would go a long way in enhancing the economic status of all citizens across the board.One feasibility forecasts incomes of $2 billion annually from commerce, industry and tourism as a direct result of operating the new airport.
The BIA project was first approved by the Shehu Shagari administration in 1982 but was suspended until March 2005 when former President Olusegun Obasanjo reapproved the phased construction of the airport. Again, not much was done until January 2012 when the Bauchi State Government secured the approval of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and awarded the contract to Triacta Nigeria Limited.
The standard of its construction and equipment conform to the latest guidelines of the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO). These include the longest and widest runways as well as the latest navigational aid and state-of-the-art communications equipment. Airfield Lightings, including the Approach Lights, are the latest installed in the most advanced aviation nations of the world. Other vital equipment such as Fire Tenders are the latest and best obtainable and were procured directly from the manufacturers.The Terminal Building consisting of Domestic and International Wings, the Control Tower and the Runway are the most user-friendly and aesthetically pleasant of any airport in Nigeria.
Access to the airport located along the Bauchi-Ningi Road has been facilitated with the construction of a three-kilometer double-lane single carriageway, complete with concrete kerbs, streetlights and protective works.This leads directly to the two Gatehouses which provide access to and exit from the 18 kilometers perimeter chain-link fence housing the BIA complex. A Link Road measuring almost 1000 meters long connects the Terminal Building, Parking Area, Control Tower, the Fire Rescue Station and the Runway. The Parking Area which can accommodate 1,000 vehicles at a time is completely asphalted, demarcated with kerb-stones and supported with reinforced concrete drain to cater for surface runoff. Earth drains, turnouts and concrete works have been added to sustain all the roads.
Nothing reveals the vastness of the airport more than the 3.5 kilometers long Runway measuring 80 meters wide with a 45 meter carriageway and 7.50 meters shoulders on both sides. There are also two 120 meters by 60 meters Blast Pads on both ends of the Runway. A Crash Road measuring 1000 meters long and 6 meters wideruns on both ends of the Runway. Another striking feature is the 4.5 kilometer wide Apron which consists of 30cm thick reinforced concrete slabs with covered drains on both sides. The Taxiway which links the Apron and the Runway consists of two perpendicular roads supported by box culverts and reinforced concrete line-drains.
The Terminal Building is demarcated into Domestic Wing and International Wing each with an Arrivals Hall, Departures Hall and a VIP Lounge.Uninterrupted power supply to the entire complex is guaranteed by a 33KVA Main Power Switchgear and ten distribution transformers. As back-up, there are three 500KVA CAT power generators securely located in the Power House.The Fire Rescue Service is equipped with three brand new fire-trucks and an 18,000-liter capacity water tanker. It also has a fully functional specialized Toyota ambulance.
The Control Tower is equipped with the GAREX 220, the latest Voice Communication Control System which comprises of Position Control Unit, Control Equipment, Position Equipment and a Server Console. It is backed by the Alcatel System 436 Navigation and Landing Aids which provide radio links, remote control and status system. Meteorological systems installed include rain gauge, wind vanes, wet and dry bulb thermometer, Solarimeter, Stevenson Screen, Hydrograph Thermometer, Key Pattern Barometer and Barograph.
Strategically, the BIA with its latest navigational equipments, an eight-storey Control Tower and one of the longest runways in the country will serve as an alternate airport to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja and the Malam Aminu Kano International Airport Kano. It is built and equipped to accommodate any aircraft, including the latest Dream-Liner Jet. All these add to the overall safety ratings of Nigeria’s airspace and enhance its chances of being a global destination of choice.
A proposal for the naming of the BIA as the Tafawa Balewa International Airport Bauchi is expected to be approved by Mr. President in due course. This is to honour the late Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the country’s first and only Prime Minister who hailed from Bauchi State. Given Tafawa Balewa’s popularity in the region and Nigeria at large, this gesture would endear the Federal Government to many citizens.Similarly, another proposal to designate the BIA a Cargo Airport is also before the President. Such a move would serve the vast volume of commerce in the entire zone.
Malam Isa Yuguda’s rich background as an economist, banker and manager have enabled him to achieve this huge feat without neglecting other vital sectors of government. In fact, the priorities of the 14th chief executive of Bauchi State who is serving his seventh year in office have been the provision of education and healthcare to the nearly six million citizens of the state.
The obvious logic is that only an educated and healthy populace can utilise contemporary economic opportunities for the benefit of the state and the country. To this end, the Yuguda administration has declared free primary and secondary education for all pupils and students while it comprehensively renovated and upgraded almost all the government-owned institutions of learning across the state. Government also established the Bauchi State University Gadau (BASUG) with one campus in each of the three senatorial districts of the state.
In the health sector, Yuguda embarked upon the construction, renovation and upgrading of General Hospitals and other healthcare facilities across the 20 Local Government Areas of the state. Already, there is free healthcare for all pregnant and nursing mothers as well as children under the age of five. In addition to award of scholarships to medical students overseas, his administration also facilitated the establishment of the School of Medical Sciences at the AbubakarTafawa Balewa University (ATBU) Bauchi with the handing over of the upgraded State Specialist Hospital to serve as the ATBU Teaching Hospital.
Shehu is SSA Media to the Governor of Bauchi State