Uche Usim , Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has described the newly-completed terminal building at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja, as a fulcrum on which Nigeria’s new economic frontier would revolve.
This is as the Minister of State, Aviation, Hadi Sirika seeks the release of a second tranche of $69.3 million government’s counterpart funding for the phase two of the airport development project currently experiencing low-work pace.
Speaking while commissioning the new facility, President Buhari said the NAIA had been placed on a strategic position on the regional travel map of Africa, especially being the first airport terminal in Nigeria and West Africa sub-region to be connected to rail transport system.
The development, he said, had provided passengers and other airport users with a choice in the mode of transport to and from the city centre.
He said it was heart-warming to see Nigeria gradually moving towards achieving global standards in passenger facilitation and air travel in general.
Buhari said: “This event represents yet another significant milestone for international air travellers in and out of the Federal Capital Territory.
“With the commissioning of this terminal, Nigeria is moving towards achieving and meeting global aviation standards in facilitation, passenger processing and service delivery in tandem with international best practices.
“This administration recognises aviation as a catalyst for economic growth and as such will continue to encourage and support the actualisation of projects that will place Nigerian airports amongst the best in the world.
“This event today, reflects government’s deliberate policy to sustain the development of Nigeria’s infrastructure. We are gradually closing the infrastructural deficit bedevilling our country,” he said.
The president applauded the progress being made in both the airports and seaports on the implementation of the Executive Order on the Ease of Doing Business.
He noted that government officials manning those gateways had been mandated to sustain the momentum and ensure travellers in and out of the country had the best of experience as a necessary complement to the ultra-modern terminal.
He reiterated that his administration remained committed to developing Nigeria into regional air transportation hub and to ensure that the country reclaimed its leadership in the aviation sub-sector in Africa.
Minister of State, Aviation, Hadi Sirika said the new terminal building has a 15-million passenger capacity annually, covering a space of approximately 56,000m2.
“It also has the following facilities as well as capabilities: 72 check-in counters; five baggage collection carousels, 28 immigration desks at arrival and 16 at departure, eight security screening points, eight passenger-boarding bridges and walkways to link the FCT metro rail.
“It also has additional apron for remote parking of aircraft, link way to domestic wing and many other facilities that are properly designed and laid out in accordance with modern requirements for airport operations,” he said.
According to Sirika, the ministry was in dire need of the second tranche of $69.3m counterpart funding by government for the second phase of airport development project projected to cost $461,795,551.02.
He said the Phase 2 takes into cognisance, additional facilities that would enhance airport efficiency.
“These includes but not limited to construction of additional apron, multi-level car park, fire station, additional boarding bridges, connection between the old and the new terminals, facility and boarding bridge to accommodate Airbus A380
“The phase two also includes completion of Kano and Lagos terminals.
“W are committed to rounding up the project soon; the contractor has gone ahead to implement it as approved, but recently slowed down the pace of work due to non-payment of $69.3m counterpart funding by government. “May I respectfully at this point, request Mr President’s kind intervention in this regard,” he added.
In his goodwill message, the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Zhou Pingjian said China was glad to be part of the infrastructural renewal drive of Nigeria.
“Nigeria needs roads, water and other infrastructure to get to the next level. This terminal building is the biggest in West Africa.
“I thank CCECC and China Exim Bank for proving themselves capable of delivering the edifice. The brotherly relationship between Nigeria and China has reached new heights and projects like this will deepen Nigeria-China cooperation.
“China is ready to open up for the world in pursuit of a shared future,” he said.
Present at the event was the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; representative of the Senate President, Ibn N’Allah; the Chairman, Senate Committee on Aviation, Adamu Aliero; Chairman House Committee on Aviation, Nkiru Onyejeocha; Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, his Labour counterpart, Chris Ngige, various aides of the president, chief executives of various aviation agencies, unions and airlines, among others.
NAIA is one of the four international airports where a new terminal building will be built via a $500 million loan arrangement with China Export Import Bank.
The Federal Government of Nigeria is to provide a counterpart funding of $100 million.