The state government has also received its certification from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for the airport to become operational, after considering the logistics put in place by the Delta state government.
Aviation security officers, deployed from Federal Airports authority of Nigeria (FAAN), staff of Airspace Management Agency (AMA), Lagos and the Meteorological centre have also resumed work, just as work at the terminal building is nearing completion while the check-in counters, scanners and walk-through detectors are fully ready for services.
Delta state Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan is among the first set of passengers which arrived on board an OVERLAND Airlines flight from Abuja.
“An elated governor Uduaghan told correspondents that the flight was smooth and pleasant.”
He however appealed to Deltans to shun rumour mongering just as he affirmed he will always welcome constructive criticism.
The state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Christopher Chike Ogeah, who said that the infrastructure at the airport is practically ready, revealed that the Chief Executive of Overland Airline, Capt. Edward Boyo is going to be the premier operator of the airport until other Nigerian indigenous airlines join them to make it a lucrative route for the airlines.
“I also want to say that we have certification. Like you all know, everything about this airport and aviation has to do with global safety standards and before certification can be given to us, you know the level of work we had done.
“As I speak with you, we have commenced commercial flights into and from this airport. We are also in the process of working with the airline for the flight to commence immediately.”
Speaking on the safety situation of the airport, the Chief Executive of Overland Airline, Capt. Edward Boyo said, “I want to assure you that we have one of the best control towers in the world here today. That majestic tall building you see and the equipment inside. I assure you, if it is not safe, we would not be here today.”
Recall that the former Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Fidelia Njeze, had commended the Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, for building the Asaba International Airport and said that the Federal Government would give the project all the necessary support.
The project which commenced in 2009 moved from the originally projected N7billion to N12billion, later N22billion and N40 billion respectively, thereby eliciting criticism from different quarters even as Governor Uduaghan has continually defended the funds accrued to the project because of the state government’s determination to build it to international standard.
The first flight at the airport took place on Thursday, March 24, 2011 with Overland Airways – ATR42 (5N-BND) as the pilot Gilbert Sampa said the flight was an interesting one, stressing that he was happy to be part of history making flight. Mr. Sampa, who described the airport as good enough and of international standard said he flew with lot of experience because it was his first time in the area.
The second aircraft, a France Air passenger Leyer Jet D/CPDR landed the Asaba International Airport on Friday, March 25, 2011 from Abuja. The pilot, Ekstrand Rolf said it took him 25 minutes to fly from Abuja to Asaba.
Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, apparently elated by the success of the first and second successful flights had mocked “doubting Thomases” to come and see the actuality on ground, adding that he was fulfilled and gave God the glory. “I am so happy with this achievement. My dream has come true and all those who criticized the project will now shut up their mouth”, he said.
The Governor had disclosed that the airport will bring economic boom along with what he called “enormous multiplier effect” and called on Deltans to explore the business potentials the airport will attract and enjoined youths in the area not to harass or exploit prospective developers.
Dr. Uduaghan who said his administration was not against criticism promised to welcome any form of criticism provided such criticisms was constructive.
His words “I welcome criticism at any time. In fact my administration is open and ready to listen to criticism provided such criticism was constructive and aimed at moving the state forward”.
The Administration of Chief James Onanefe Ibori of 1999-2007 muted the idea of building a standard category C Airport, capable of handling big planes like Boeing 737 and Cargo aircrafts in Asaba, Delta state Capital and intended to enhance air travels, generate more revenue to boost the financial base of the State at completion.
The Ibori administration could not embark on the project but Dr. Emmanuel Ewata Uduaghan took the Airport project as part of the main stay of its 3- point Agenda of Peace and Security, Human Capital Development and Infrastructural Development as the foundation stone of the airport was laid in 2009 by former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Chairman, Chief Vincent Ogbulafo.
The contract for the construction of the Airport was awarded to U.L.O .Consultants Ltd at an initial cost of N6.47 Billion.
Afterwards, the contractor, an Asaba indigene, Ogbueshi Uche Okpuno said he needed the sum of N22 billion to complete the Asaba International Airport project.
Ogbueshi Uche Okpuno had explained that the delay in completing the project was caused by a fundamental modification of the original design of the project which was at the insistence of the aviation regulatory bodies.
The ongoing Airport project, after what the state government referred to as challenges was reviewed upwards to nearly N40 billion Asaba Airport.
Deltans have continued to agitate over the huge and upward review of the cost of airport project to tune the tune of N40 billion as announced by Chief Uche Okpuno, the contractor handling the project.
It will be recalled that at the foundation laying ceremony, the governor Dr. Uduaghan had announced in the presence of Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), that the airport, which was initially estimated at N14 billion, a sum considered too high for the government would now cost N7 billion. The governor also assured the public that the project would be completed in 18 months, as the airport is a star project of his administration.