The commissioning of the Port Harcourt International Airport (PHIA), Omegwa, Port Harcourt on October 25, 2018 was with fanfare, but two months after the inauguration, the airport is yet to be opened for use.
Investigation revealed that the airport, which was constructed by the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation Ltd. (CCECC) Nigeria, for $111.1million was yet to be completed by the contractor.
A source close to the Ministry of Transport, Aviation Unit, told our correspondent on Wednesday that the new terminal may not be ready for use until March 2019.
According to the source, Hadi Sirika, Nigeria's Minister of State for Aviation, had "hoodwinked President Muhammadu Buhari to commission the terminal after the crisis that trailed the failed attempt on a new national carrier for the country".
It was gathered that the contracting firm had told Sirika that the new terminal was not ready for use, but the minister had insisted on commissioning the terminal at the time in order to get commendation from the president.
Investigation by SaharaReporters revealed that intense work was still ongoing at the new terminal, as several equipment were still being fixed by the contractors.
Speaking on the state of affairs at the airport, the source said: “It is bad that two months after the commissioning of Port Harcourt airport, we are yet to use the new terminal. We all knew from the beginning that the terminal was not ready, but the minister forced the contractor to commission it.
“Now, months after the forceful commissioning, no one is able to use the terminal. As at Monday, serious work was still ongoing at the terminal and it may not be ready by March next year. That is the challenge we have been facing in this sector.”
At the commissioning in October, President Muhammadu Buhari had said that the new terminal would further open up the economic activities in the state as goods and cargo movement would increase in the state and other neighbouring states.
Buhari said the new terminal would accommodate at least seven million passengers annually, adding that it would further bring the nation's aviation industry up to international standards.
He emphasised that plans were underway to link the Port Harcourt Airport to the ongoing construction of the Warri railway line, noting that this would also make air travel affordable and convenient for passengers.
Speaking at the commissioning, Buhari had said: "The concession of four international airports in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kano and Abuja will improve infrastructure in Nigeria. Our desire is to make air travel more affordable to all and this we are achieving with the commissioning of these new terminals. I want to commend the Chinese Exim Bank for their financial support towards the completion of this project".
Also, Nyesom Wike, Governor of Rivers State, had stated that the South South region was happy with the project, stating that it would foster further investment in the state.
"I can tell you this today that the people of Rivers State and the Niger Delta are happy with you Mr. President. This terminal here will help the drive of the state to grow the economy and it will attract investment to the state. What has happened here shows that Rivers State is safe, Rivers State is secure and if it was not, CCECC will not have been here to construct this," Wike said.