New Port Harcourt Airport International Terminal Commissioned

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President Buhari on Thursday 25 October, commissioned the new terminal building of the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, Rivers State. The President arrived the airport at about 12:30pm.

Mr. Buhari came in the company of a number of cabinet ministers, including Hadi Sirika (junior minister, Aviation) and Chris Ngige (Labor) among others was. They were received by the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, and other dignitaries of the State including Senator Magnus Abe and Chief Tonye Dole who are both embroiled in the tussle for APC governorship ticket for the State. Conspicuously missing was the substantive minister of Aviation, Chief Chibuike Amaechi, an ex-governor of the State. Amaechi was in far away Ibadan, for a Town Hall Meeting on Infrastructure.

The terminal project, a brain child of the Goodluck Jonathan administration began in 2013 on a $500 million loan from China. Similar projects simultaneously awarded then are still ongoing at other major airports such as Abuja, Kano and Lagos.

Speaking during the commissioning, the governor, Nyesom Wike called for more investments in the State as it is in the best interest of the entire South-South region. He perhaps gave a soft jab at his political rival, ex-governor Chibuike Amaechi who often suggests the State had been made unsafe for investment by Wike’s policies, by arguing that “If Rivers State is not safe, CCECC will not complete this project. What has happened today showcases the fact that Rivers State is safe, Rivers State is secure for people to invest.”

“I urge all of us who are from Rivers State and others from Nigeria to market Rivers State and not de-market it. With this people will come and invest in the state. Other airlines will also operate from this airport,” the Governor said.

He urged Buhari to complete the domestic terminal of the Port Harcourt International Airport in line with his pledge.

In his own brief remark at the commissioning, Buhari said,

”This ceremony represents a significant landmark for international air travelers, particularly from the South South region, and the entire country. You will recall that after opening the major airport terminals in the country in the late 70’s and early 80’s, 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.

Interior of the Port Harcourt airport.

“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”.

President Buhari, who in his speech appeared to mute any credit to the previous administration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan immediately received a rebuke from the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party.

In a season of hard politiking in run-up to elections next year, PDP rushed a press release to dismiss as “theatrical” the president’s claim that the project was “part of the infrastructure renewal program” of his government. It accused the administration of trying to harvest where it did not sow since it made “no contribution whatsoever” to the project.

“Nigerians were thoroughly amused when President Buhari’s handlers brought him to Port Harcourt, Rivers State, for the first time since his inauguration in 2015, only to orchestrate another failed attempt to claim credit for project executed by others”, PDP said.

“The PDP counsels President Buhari’s handlers to use the remaining days of his failed administration to prepare him to get ready to accept his imminent defeat in 2019, as Nigerians have already rallied behind our candidate, Atiku Abubakar, whose performance credentials is known to all.”

Debate among supporters of both parties raged about where the credit for the edifice actually falls. PDP supporters claim the project was already 80% completed at the time Goodluck Jonathan left the saddle on 29 May, 2015.

President Explains VAT Removal For Domestic Air Fares

During the President’s opening remark, he also explained that his government’s rationale for the removal of Value Added Tax (VAT) from domestic air travels was to reduce air fares, enable speedy movement of more people and spur business activities that will stimulate the economy.

President Buhari said the decision by the Federal Government to remove VAT from domestic air transportation was in line with global best practices of making air transportation affordable, which will subsequently lead to the creation of more jobs by the air transport service value chain.

He said the removal of VAT will also increase revenue for the government with more traffic at the airports. The President noted that the increase in national population with consequent surge in air passenger traffic necessitated upgrading and construction of new airports across the country.

“I am very pleased to formally commission the new International Terminal of the Port Harcourt airport, Omagwa, today. This ceremony represents a significant landmark for international air travellers, particularly from the South-South region and the entire country.

(L=R), Hadi Sirika, President Buhari, Chris Ngige and Gov. Wike during the commissioning.

“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,’’ he added.

The President said decisive actions had to be taken by the Federal Government to ensure that 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,’’ he said.

President Buhari said at the presentation of the 2017 Budget to the National Assembly he promised to upgrade and develop Nigeria’s transport, power and health infrastructure, and complete a number of stalled infrastructure projects, which includes major airports, roads and power projects, and the completion of the Kaduna–Abuja as well as Itakpe to Warri Railway lines.

The President said Nigeria, having an advantageous central location within the sub-region with a desire to develop into a regional air transportation hub, must upgrade its facilities to take advantage of its assets.

Bellow is a gallery of events at the commissioning.

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