As Reports about the official opening of the newly upgraded and Expanded Roberts International Airport (RIA) unfolds, there are calls by some Liberians that the new terminal should be named after the former President Sirleaf and should be called “Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Terminal” of the Robert International Airport.
The calls are in light of the thoughtfulness and role of President Sirleaf in ensuring a modern terminal and refurbished RIA, which has raised the airport to international standard comparable to airports in some other countries without mortgaging that revenue generating facility.
“Two different international engineering companies respectively offered in the past to develop the airport with 25 years mortgage each to use the airport as a way of refunding the money used for the construction of modern terminal and other facilities; such offer was rejected by the Sirleaf administration.
Yarteh, who said he worked in the inner circle of the past government pointed out that the President for this reason turned each of the two companies down and negotiated with – Chinese engineering firms – China Harbor Engineering Company and Sino Hydro, under an engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract, which have made the construction of the modern terminal and airport facilities possible.
Gyude Nyemah, another Liberia, recalled that airports and other facilities worldwide are named after people who are instrumental in constructing them or have done things memorable in the society.
Mr. Nyemah named the Mohamed Motada Airport in Nigeria, the Samuel Doe Sports Complex and other facilities are examples, pointing out that for the fact that Liberia’s airport has been ignored and never given attention by governments that preceded the Unity Party regime of Madam Sirleaf, the first female president who brought the airport to international standard should be honor by naming the terminal after her.
Nyemah argued that had it not been for the instrumentality of President Sirleaf, Liberia would not have been talking about opening the new passenger terminal with a two-level building bearing a floor area of 5,000m².
For Monsior Giddings, he praised Madam President that Liberia has a modern airport facility that is capable of handling approximately 320,000 passengers a year. He noted that and architectural information on the terminal is cleared that the first floor includes an arrivals hall, check-in facility, waiting hall, advanced security and immigration systems, equipment room, office spaces, security screening, baggage-handling area, and baggage claim area with new large baggage carousels for arriving passengers.
For the second floor, he pointed out that it includes a departures lounge, a waiting hall and commercial service areas. Two jetway walking bridges were built to connect the terminal gate with aircraft, allowing the passengers to enter and exit the aircraft, he asserted, saying further that request that the new terminal be named after President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is meritorious.
Another Liberian who suggested naming the new airport terminal after Sirleaf is Collins Tokpah. In is view, the new international passenger terminal which can process approximately 500 passengers at a time and can handle two wide-body aircraft such as Airbus A380 is to the credit of the former Liberian leader.
He intoned that the existing terminal has the capacity to accommodate approximately 330 people in 30 minutes and complemented by a 1,500m² parking facility through the development orientation of Madam Sirleaf, a reason why he added, that this act of selflessness should be reciprocated by naming the terminal after President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to be called “EJS Terminal”.
Lorpu Kollie, Munah J. Wesseh, Esther M. Tarpeh and others that spoke to The ANALYST supported the naming of the terminal after President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
The terminal at the Roberts International Airport in Margibi County was first dedicated in December 2017 by the former president.
At the time, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf indicated that competing development priorities accumulated from Liberia’s civil war delayed her government’s commitment to refurbish the country’s major airport – Roberts International Airport (RIA) in Margibi County.
According to Madam Sirleaf then, the RIA which was constructed in the 1970s, was left deteriorated due to poor maintenance causing difficulties for airlines and created setbacks for Liberia’s aviation sector, and noted that it was a “conscious hard choice” to keep pushing the project forward and that her government did not anticipate it would have faced “hard shocks”.
“It wasn’t easy at the time when we started to work on rebuilding the airport because we were facing financial constraints,” Sirleaf said. She added, “So many times we start these thing, we don’t finish them because we don’t have the strong will power to be able to stay the course, to be able to do what is require to meet those conditions for moving forward, in this case we do have the results.”
Liberia had ‘good friends’ like China and the Saudi Development Fund who were willing to demonstrate confidence in the future development of the country. The President lauded the commitment of two Chinese engineering firms including Sino hydro and China Harbour Engineering Company LTD who worked, upgraded aand expanded the RIA to the level of works done so far on both the terminal and the runway.
The President also disclosed the intervention of the Export-Import Bank of China for providing the US$50 million loan for the terminal and the Saudi Development Bank for funding the runway project.
Roberts International Airport (RIA), also known as Monrovia International Airport, currently serves more than 228,000 domestic and international passengers annually and is expected to receive more than 450,000 annual passengers over the next few years.
A new passenger terminal was inaugurated at the airport in December 2017, as part of an upgrade and expansion project. The project also included refurbishment of the existing runway. The upgrade and expansion are aimed at expanding the airport and addressing safety issues.
Construction on the runway rehabilitation project began in September 2016, and the ground for the new passenger terminal building was broken in November 2016.
Built in the 1970s, the existing 3,353m-long asphalt runway deteriorated due to lack of maintenance, making it difficult for planes to land. Under the upgrading and expansion project, the runway was also refurbished with the cost of $30m while total cost of the new passenger terminal project is $50m.
The runway and airfield lighting systems were upgraded to the international civil aviation standards. The rehabilitated runway will support heavy loads and help to improve air safety. The existing asphalt aprons of 57,000m² have been expanded to 85,000m.
Other new facilities installed at RIA included reconstruction of car parking, on-site roads, communications systems, water supply and sewage treatment systems, and electrical systems. The operational and safety-related airport equipment and facilities include fire-fighting systems, conveyor-belt loaders, forklifts, ambulances, passenger stairs, and passenger buses, according to Airport engineers.
Regarding Financing for the expansion project it was said that funding for the terminal project was provided by the China Export-Import (EXIM) Bank through a 22-month agreement provided $49.8m concessional loan while the runway refurbishment project received funding of $20m from the Saudi Fund for Development, $10m from the Arab Bank for Economic Development for Africa, and $3m from the Government of Liberia.
By November 2014, the European Investment Bank (EIB) agreed with the Government of Liberia to provide a $27.3m loan over a period of 20 years to support the rehabilitation project at the RIA. The contract was finalized in February 2015. The RIA refurbishment and expansion project was implemented by Chinese engineering firms China Harbor Engineering Company and Sino Hydro, under an engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract with the airport operator Liberia Airport Authority, informed sources said.