The Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, has said that the proposed N38bn cargo airport for the state is a private initiative being carried out by a consortium.
He wondered where his administration could have secured money to build the airport when he could not pay salaries.
Ortom spoke with State House correspondents on Thursday shortly after attending a meeting of the National Economic Council at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The governor said, “The cargo airport is purely a private initiative by a consortium. Benue State Government is not going to pay N1. How can I construct an airport when I cannot pay salaries as and when due? There is no need for that.”
The governor described the cargo airport as manna from heaven, adding that those were criticising the project were either doing so out of ignorance or mischief.
He said, “So, for me, this is manna from heaven and we have well received it back home in the state. To those who are expressing reservations, saying we are spending money, the question is, where is the money to spend?”
Ortom said the airport, when operational, would be a hub for the entire West Africa to lift cargo, especially agricultural produce to other parts of the world.
He said, “This consortium has arranged a funding of this project and because we are providing the enabling environment and providing land, they have also offered the state government 15 per cent equity.
“But the 15 per cent equity contribution has been arranged by this same consortium, government is not paying N1. The payment will only come when the project is completed and out of our diligence, we will pay back within a secured period. And the concessional agreement is for 25 years and then we shall renegotiate.
The governor said that the N38bn was not just going to be for cargo airport but would also go into providing a chain of projects that would promote the economy of the state.
He listed the projects to include housing estate, road construction, dualisation of the road from Lafia to Makurdi to Otupko and Ninth Mile and training school that would support the airport.