The Federal Government has finally signed a $500m loan agreement with China for the construction of four international airport terminals in Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and Kano.
The loan, which was one of many agreements and Memorandum of Understandings signed by both countries, was approved in Beijing on Wednesday as President Goodluck Jonathan formally commenced a two-day state visit to China.
A statement signed by the Special Adviser (Media) to the Minister of Aviation, Mr. Joe Obi, said the commencement of construction work on the terminals had been on hold pending the formal signing of the loan deal, which will be provided by the China EXIM Bank.
The Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said the Federal Government was elated that the loan deal for the financing of the terminals had finally been sealed.
The government, through the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, had in March stated that it was seeking to use the loan for the construction of four international airport terminals.
The Managing Director, FAAN, Mr. George Uriesi, had stated that construction work on the project sites would commence in June, but this was not so, as the funds were not forthcoming.
Uriesi said after the initial agreement between Nigeria and China last year, government officials had been doing the paperwork to figure out the details before the commencement of work by a Chinese construction company.
Okonjo-Iweala said airports, being the gateways to the country, were critical not only as drivers of socio-economic development, but also an outward reflection of the character of any nation.
She added that developing airport and aviation infrastructure was a major priority of the Federal Government, and commended the leadership of Jonathan for pulling off such a remarkable milestone with the Chinese authorities.
“The simultaneous construction of four international airports will create employment and other value chains that will help to grow and expand the frontiers of the Nigerian economy,” she said.
In her remarks, the Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah, said the dream of the present administration to bequeath befitting international airports to the country would now be realised with the signing of the agreement.
She said, “I am extremely delighted with this development today. Now, real work can start as we had been eagerly waiting for this day.
“We promised to give the nation international airports befitting the stature and standing of Nigeria as the giant of Africa, and today’s ceremony is a significant milestone towards the achievement of this objective.”[Punch]