-Blank NEWS Online (NIGERIA) –By Albert OGRAKA:
Delta State government has confirmed the receipt of N1 billion upfront fee as part of the proceeds deal from the concessioning of Asaba Airport.
Delta State Commissioner for Finance, Sir Okemur Fidelis Tilije, who confirmed the receipt of the funds, disclosed that the money was paid, based on the agreement that the concessionaire would pay an upfront fee of N1 billion on or before close of business on the 15th day after signing the agreement.
The commissioner stated this while fielding questions from members of the Asaba Correspondent Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), who paid him a courtesy visit in his office in Asaba, the state capital.
Recall that the state had on February 23, signed a concession deal with First Investment/Menzes Consortium for the development and management of various sections of the airport for the next 30 years.
The Commissioner said, “I hereby confirm that the N1 billion has already be received by the state government, and it is sitting in our account with Zenith Bank. It was received last Friday.”
According to him, “We are very happy with the business arrangement; it took us more than nine months to go through the concession agreement so that it would be a win win situation because if you are partnering in business with any business organisation, you must allow your partner benefit too. We are grateful to God for the opportunity to concession the airport.”
Sir Tilije however, commended the decision by the Governor Ifeanyi Okowa-led administration to concession the airport and assured Deltans that in the next few years, Asaba would become the hub of business in the South South geopolitical zone of Nigeria.
He explained that more than 75% percent of cargos that came into Nigeria landed first in Lagos, as the state housed most of the major air and sea ports in the country, adding that with the need to decongest the cargo traffic in Lagos to the South East and South South regions in the country, which would in turn boost trade and business activities in the region, the recent concession of the Asaba International Airport would boost economic activities in the capital territory.
He said that the state government was mindful of the kind of businesses in the state; hence, it had embarked on the overhauling of the Warri and Koko ports which were being upgraded to export goods through the Asaba Airport or Warri Sea Port.
He further said that for the ease of transportation of goods, the Okowa administration had embarked on fixing of the intra state roads, connecting Asaba, Ogwashi Uku, Ughelli and Warri which, he said, would be ready before the end of the 2021 fiscal year.
While repudiating various critics’ queries, he said, “We know there are people who are not knowledgeable about governance that questioned that decision to concession the airport.
“Government was spending so much on the airport, and it was not yielding returns. So, you needed to get the private sector to properly manage it, develop it and make it profit-oriented.
“As a government, it was a smart and painstaking decision to concession the airport to reduce government influence in the management. In the next few years, you will not believe what that airport would be turned into because it is centrally located.”
The Chairman of Asaba Correspondent Chapel, Ogbeni Dominic Adewole in his response thanked the commissioner for his warmth reception.
He said that he was pleased with the great job the commissioner was doing by prudently managing the finances of the state, adding that as the watchdogs of the society, journalists would be very professional in their reportage by balancing their stories at all times.
He said that a robust working relationship between the commissioner and the journalists would be sustained.