President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has charged operators and regulators of the various airports as well as the Lands Commission to work closely to ensure that airport lands are properly managed and protected not only for future airport expansion, but also to safeguard lives and property in the unlikely event of an accident at or around the airport enclave.
The President said the widespread encroachment on airport lands was threatening future expansion of airports in the country and must be curtailed.
"In recent times, a lot of encroachment on airport and aviation lands has been identified as a major issue and needs to be promptly addressed.
“I wish to state that airport and aviation lands are national assets that should not be sold to individuals or institutions without the consent of the airport and civil aviation authorities. I urge the Ghana Aviation Company Limited and the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority to protect these lands from further encroachment," President Akufo-Addo noted.
The President gave the charge yesterday when he cut the sod for the start of the second phase of the Tamale Airport Expansion Project.
The $70-million project to be financed by the United Kingdom Export Finance (UKEF) and the German Development Bank, KfW IPEX-Bank, comprises the construction of a road network and external works, a 1,000 square-metre Hajj Terminal, an airport terminal building designed for annual passenger throughput of 400,000 persons, a single carriageway access road and other ancillary works.
The project, which is expected to be completed in 30 months, will provide the needed impetus for increased economic activities and move Tamale towards becoming a hub of flights to and from neighbouring West African countries and the Sahel region.
Boosting aviation industry
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Speaking at the event in Tamale, which was attended by the Overlord of Dagbon, Yaa Naa Abukari Mahama II, and other dignitaries, President Akufo-Addo said funding for the project had been secured and that there should be no excuse for any delays to generate cost overruns.
He said the project was in line with the government's commitment to expand the frontiers of the aviation industry and make Ghana the aviation hub of West Africa.
"It is gratifying to note that the development of the Tamale Airport Phase II is in line with the government's aviation sector infrastructural development. This project is so dear to the government and, particularly, the hardworking people of the northern regions and our trading partners across the length and breadth of the country," he stated.
Underscoring the rationale for the project, President Akufo-Addo indicated that the government intended to use the facility to support programmes of the Northern Development Authority (NDA) to harness fresh agricultural produce for export to Europe and other parts of the world, thereby generating employment in the area.
It will also make Tamale the Hajj hub of the country and facilitate seamless travel directly to Saudi Arabia for seasonal pilgrimage to Mecca.
While commending the UK government and other partners for committing huge resources towards the construction of the project, he admonished other service providers within the aviation industry to leverage the development of the Tamale International Airport to invest in other areas such as the establishment of maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility, the development of cargo facilities and cold stores for the export of fresh produce and the establishment of an aviation training organisation (ATO).
The President said the "government was committed to giving the domestic aviation industry the needed support to enable it to thrive and compete fairly with other actors outside the country".
To that end, he said, the removal of the 17.5 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) on domestic airfares which had doubled domestic traffic was ample evidence of the government's commitment to facilitate the growth of the industry.
As part of the efforts towards the attainment of an aviation hub, he pointed out that the Ministry of Aviation had made progress for the establishment of the home-based carrier with private sector participation, and processes were ongoing to ensure its realisation.
"As part of the government's resolve to increase domestic activities, a host of other projects are going on and these include the phase two and three of the Kumasi Airport and the rehabilitation of Sunyani Airport.
“I am happy to note that the Kotoka International Airport has become very vibrant and processing an average of 8,000 international and 2,000 domestic passengers daily," he added.
Improving airport infrastructure
For his part, the Minister of Aviation, Mr Joseph Kofi Adda, said the ministry was undertaking numerous projects and policy initiatives aimed at improving airport infrastructural developments and enhance safety and security.
Mr Adda, therefore, called on various stakeholders to collaborate and cooperate effectively with the ministry and government towards boosting the aviation sector.
Yaa Naa Mahama II lauded the government for the project and said it would go a long way to put the country in pole position to take full advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the headquarters of which would be established in Ghana.
He observed that "the economy of northern Ghana stood to benefit enormously and farmers will be motivated to put in their best, knowing very well that their produce will not continue to rot on farms while clients are deprived of same only a few hours away by air.”
The Yaa Naa also appealed to the government to step up its support to farmers in the form of inputs and extension services, while the Meteorological Services Department needed to be adequately resourced to help deal with consequences of global warming.