Port Harcourt — President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday inaugurated the $600 million (N216billion) Port Harcourt International Airport terminal funded by the Export-Import Bank of China and the Nigerian Government.
The terminal was constructed by China Civil Engineering and Construction Company (CCECC). The company is also constructing new terminals in Abuja, Kano and Lagos International Airports.
The President also assured that his administration was deliberately working to sustain the development of infrastructure for economic growth in all geo-political zones of the country.
He said opening of the new terminal building of the Port Harcourt International Airport represents a significant landmark for international air travellers, particularly from the south-south geopolitical zone, and the entire country.
Speaking during the commissioning of the new terminal building at the Port Harcourt International Airport Complex, Omagwa in Ikwerre local government area of Rivers State, President Buahri expressed regrets that since the opening of the airports across the country in the late 1970s and early 1980s, not much was added to increase the passenger handling capacity of these facilities by successive administrations.
He said, "You will recall that after opening the major airport terminals in the country in the late 70s and early 80s, not much was added to increase the passenger handling capacity of these facilities by successive administrations.
"Following the large increase in national population with consequent surge in air passenger traffic, the capacity of the airport terminals became woefully inadequate to cater for the increase in passenger traffic.
"Although, palliative measures were periodically carried out, the facilities were fast giving-in to the effects of wear and tear. It therefore became necessary to take decisive action to ensure our terminals meet minimum international standards for the travelling public.
"The federal government responded to a global trend in which aviation became a catalyst for economic growth as a result of massive and speedy movement of persons, goods and services in a safe and secure manner.
"As part of the infrastructure renewal program, the construction of four new international terminals at Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and Kano airports was embarked upon by the federal government with a view to modernising the aging airport infrastructure to meet global aviation standards and improved service delivery in tandem with best international practices.
"Today's commissioning is an example of Government's deliberate policy to sustain the development of infrastructure for economic growth in all geo-political zones of the country."
Buhari praise the efforts of the Federal Ministry of Transportation, the Chinese government and the China Exim Bank for their financial support and the various roles they played towards the successful completion of the project.
"At the presentation of the 2017 budget to the national assembly, I promised to upgrade and develop Nigeria's transport, power and health infrastructure, and complete a number of stalled infrastructure projects.
"These include construction of new terminals at the country's five major airports; numerous major road projects; key power transmission projects; and the completion of the Kaduna - Abuja as well as Itakpe to Warri Railway lines.
"Nigeria having an advantageous central location within the sub-region and our desire to develop into a regional air transportation hub, must upgrade its facilities to take advantage of its assets.
In his speech, Rivers State governor, Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, said the new airport terminal building would boost the economy of Rivers State as well as create jobs for people of the state.
"For this today, the people of Rivers State and people of the Niger Delta are happy for seeing this. What you are doing today will boost economy of the state, create employment for people. It would bring investors to this state.
"Mr. President has directed that the domestic wing of the airport be commissioned in December. I hope my friend (Hadi Sirika) will keep to it so that the people of Rivers and Niger Delta will continue to be happy with President Buhari.
"Mr. President what has happened today is a clear statement to the fact that Rivers State is safe, secure for people to come and invest. If the state were not safe CCECC would not have come to complete this project," he said.
Speaking earlier, Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, said the project, which commenced in February 2014, along with three other airports in Lagos, Abuja and Kano, was funded through the China Exim Bank loan of $500million with another $100million counterpart fund from the government of Nigeria.
Sirika said although the expected time for the completion of the project was two years, work was below 30 per cent as at the time the Buhari-led administration came on board in 2015, due to technical challenges.
"The project along with three others in Lagos, Abuja and Kano commenced in February 2014, is funded through China Exim Bank loan of $500million with another $100million counterpart fund from the government of Nigeria.
federal government appropriation would follow suit on due course.
"The new terminal being commissioned has capacity for seven million passengers annually, 15 times the number of total passengers for entire Ghana for emphasis.
"Today, aviation remains the safest means of transportation. Under current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, transport sector continues to undergo series of reform to sustain international best practice to ensure safety and security," Sirika added.