The Port Harcourt International Airport was not supposed to remain this bad.
When Stella Oduah of the ‘bullet-proof BMW fame’ was still aviation minister, the federal government of Nigeria took a loan worth $1.1 billion from the Chinese government out of which $500 million was supposed to cater for the remodelling of a few airports in Nigeria viz Abuja, Kano, Lagos and Port Harcourt. That was in 2013. The project to remodel the airports had begun even before that loan was taken, but the loan was expected to be a boost.
Not much has changed however in the Port Harcourt International airport. Things are so deplorable that the airport has just received the embarrassing distinction of being named the “world’s worst airport” in 2015 by travel website The Guide to Sleeping in Airports.
In September 2013, at the peak of the battle between the then Rivers governor Rotimi Amaechi and Pres. Goodluck Jonathan, the governor accused the aviation minister, Stella Oduah, of abandoning the remodelling of the airport because of the disagreements between Amaechi and the president. “I have gone to the President and told him that because of the disagreement between Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, who is not Rivers State, and the President, the minister of aviation has abandoned the airport. They started that airport with Kano, Lagos, Abuja, Benin, and Calabar. The rest have been completed, including Enugu which has been commissioned. It is hatred. The Minister of Aviation is reckless on that,” the governor said.
The minister was dismissed Amechi’s claims. Through her Special Assistant (Media), Joe Obi, the minister who is now a senator, described the allegations as untrue. “Port Harcourt is among the 11 airports in the first phase of airport remodelling. If you go to that airport now, it is completely different from what it was two or three years ago,” the minister said.
Oduah did not fix the airport before she resigned from office following the corruption allegations she faced at the time. The man who succeeed her, Samuel Ortom,said in June 2014, that funding of the project was guaranteed because of the Chinese loan.
“We are executing these projects through the 500 million dollars Chinese loan that was approved by the Federal Government,” he said. “So it will be completed at recorded time because no challenge for that funding; the other projects too which are ongoing, we are going to complete them.”
The latest unfavourable ranking shows that not much has changed. The survey of 26,297 fliers asked them to identify the world’s worst and best aviation terminals, judging facilities in four categories: comfort, conveniences, cleanliness and customer service. Port Harcourt sat at the bottom for its “unpleasant and unhelpful staff, alleged corruption, a severe lack of seating, broken air-conditioning and the fact that the arrivals hall was inside a tent.”
“The good news is that some areas of the terminal have been recently renovated, meaning you can expect actual walls, floors and windows,” says the website. “Though it is a far cry from reasonable, improvements are being made.”
The baton has been handed to the new Muhammadu Buhari administration, whose ministers are expected to be appointed soon. Amaechi is expected to be one of the ministers if he scales his screening by the senate which now includes a certain senator Stella Oduah. Whatever the case, Nigerians will be expecting that whoever becomes aviation minister helps ensure that Nigerians see a quick change in the fortunes of the eyesore that is now the Port Harcourt International Airport,Omagwa.