By Amauche Agbo, Abakaliki
It was a moment of jubilation and joy as first air craft landed in Ebonyi State International Airport.
The airport which was named after President Mohammadu Buhari is located at Onueke in Ezza South Local Government Area of the State.
The Aircraft, Air Peace Hopper, 5N-BXF from Abuja landed at the airport at 3.48 Pm, Thursday amidst cheers from Ebonyi people gathered for the inaugural flight.
That was followed by another Air Peace flight from Lagos, Hopper 5N-BUY which arrived about 30 minutes after.
Governor Umahi who received the returnee flight passengers addressed the gathering in high spirits.
He recalled how badly neglected Ebonyi people were in the past, and attributed the present glories and achievements of the state to God’s providence.
He appreciated President Muhammadu Buhari for his tremendous support towards the success of the Airport, and other capital intensive projects in the state.
He also appreciated the State Executive Council, the Legislature, the judiciary and all who contributed to the success of the Airport.
Umahi specially thanked his predecessor, Chief Martin Elechi for providing him the door through which to excel.
He noted that the Airport would be handed over to the Federal government for concessioning in order to keep it running effectively, adding that Buhari would be visiting to officially commission the Airport in the next ten days.
“For the project cost, this entire thing so far is 36 billion naira, including the equipment.
“We have the best equipment in the whole country, and anybody can challenge us.
“What is remaining now is the Air field and run way lighting which we have paid for.
“We needed to have this place to be the best to meet all standards.”
Governor Umahi further said the state government would offer free flight to passengers travelling to Abuja and Lagos from the Airport within the next four weeks.
In his remarks, the former Governor of the State, Chief Martin Elechi applauded the Governor. He observed that commenting on the Airport would consume many days and books of eulogy.
Elechi described the naming of the airport after President Buhari as most appropriate, going by his various contributions and historical impact in the development of the state.
He added that such an edifice wherever it is located always brings innumerable development.
Mr Collins Oti who represented the Chairman and Chief Executive of Air Peace, Chief Allen Onyeama, said it was highly exciting landing at the airport, and commended the state government for such a huge initiative.
The General Manager, Aerodrome Services, Oladipo Adebayo, who represented the Director, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, described the Airport as one of its kind in the country. He praised the design and quality of the runway and other facilities in the airport as both unique and of the highest quality of standards.
He however called for proper maintenance of the facility for greater durability.
Others who spoke, including the Ebonyi State Governor-elect, Francis Nwifuru; the Senior Special Assistant to Governor David Umahi on Aviation Services, Mrs Obianuju Aloh; and the chairmen of Ezza North and South local government areas, Moses Ogodoali Nome and Mrs Euphemia Nwali respectfully, on whose land the Airport is located, also eulogized the Governor, describing the Airport as a great driver of economy and tourism.
While Nwifuru noted that the governor’s performance would continue to pose a huge challenge to him as his elected successor, Nome described the airport as a seemingly impossibility made possible through bravery, diligence and commitment of the Governor.
Meanwhile, the chairman of Abakaliki LGA Hon Ebere Nwogba commended Gov. Umahi for achieving such a great feat, describing the airport as the first of its kind in the Africa sub region. He noted that the airport operation would boost the socioeconomic value of the State.