The Ogun State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun made good his promise to deliver an airport to the state as the aerodrome witnessed the historic official landing of the maiden test flights.
The Ogun State Gateway International Agro-Cargo Airport at Iperu-Ilishan Road, Ikene local government.in Ogun State was a project whose idea was mooted 16 years by former Governor Gbenga Daniel but never left the conception state until 2021 when Abiodun, buoyed by a determination to complete many of the abandoned projects in the state when he assumed office in 2019.
A Challenger aircraft was the first to land at 2.15 pm to the excitement of the Ogun people who had earlier trooped to the airport to witness the occasion. This was followed in quick succession by the first commercial airliner operated by the fast-rising ValueJet at 3.15 pm on Thursday.
A crowd of party supporters, top dignitaries comprising Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, former Governors Olusegun Osoba, Daniel, former Speaker, House of Representatives, Mr. Dimeji Bankole, Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika, Chairman of ValueJet, Mr. Kunle Soname, and traditional rulers including the Akarigbo of Remonland Awujale of Ijebu, represented by the Orimolusi of Ijebu-Igbo among others attended the events.
Many, including villagers and others, erupted in great joy when a ValueJet CRJ 900 aircraft with registration number 5N-BXS landed at the newly built four-kilometer runway of the airport still under construction.
The excitement was palpable as security personnel pleaded with the surging crowd to keep a distance. The deployment of ValueJet aircraft for the historic test flight is also a testament to the resilience of the Remo, Ikenne, and Ilisan indigenes to use their resources, connections, and industry to better the lots of their people.
The ValueJet chairman, Kunle Osiname hails from Ikenne, the same local government as Osinbajo, Governor, Dapo Abiodun, and Gbenga Daniel who is also an Ijebu.
Osinbajo expressed his joy for the project, stressing that airports would help to fast track development of the state, lauding the governor for fulfilling his promise to bring the project to fruition.
Daniel poured encomium on Abiodun, noting that when he assume power in 2003, his government created a 25-year masterplan for infrastructure development for the state, with the cargo airport as one of the projects.
He added that the aerodrome can serve as an alternative to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos because of its proximity to Ogun State.
“We got the approval for this airport in 2008 but we did not have the money to start the project. We were not allowed to access funds. We thought that whoever takes over from us would continue, but for eight years, nothing happened. I thank Governor Abiodun for a job well done”.
Soname on his part said, “We are partners for this project. It is a dream come true. The first commercial flight into this airport is our flight. This is a four-kilometer runway designed to land A B747, B777, A380, and other wide-body aircraft”.
On his part, Osoba said he shed tears of joy to see Abiodun complete some of the projects he initiated when he was governor of the state between 1992 and 1993.
He took a swipe at some of his successors whom he said played politics by abandoning some of the projects of their predecessors, saying the government is a continuum.
The Gateway International Agro Cargo Airport is a mega project conceptualiseed by the Prince Dapo Abiodun administration in Ogun State to create needed infrastructure to boost the exportation of agricultural and non-agricultural goods on one hand and on the other hand, to further reinvigorate socio-economic activities which are the long run is capable of increasing revenue generation drive of the state.
The full construction of the project was taken up by the administration in April 2021. It would be recalled that the idea of the state having an airport in Ilisan Remo was first mooted by the Gbenga Daniel administration in 2007 but did not see the light of day until when the Prince Abiodun administration started to build it from the scratch.
Sitting on about 5000 hectares of land strategically located with its proximity to the Lagos-Ibadan and the Sagamu-Benin Expressways, the airport is provided with a five-storey control tower obtainable in similar airports in developed countries.
The maiden test flights were important milestones that signal the imminent commencement of aviation activities at the aerodrome.