The investment of $500 million from China Exim Bank facility to build a new terminal at the Murtala Muhammed International airport and develop infrastructure in three others, will no doubt play an important role in promoting the economic prosperity of the country, strengthen foreign trade between China and Nigeria and boost tourism links between Nigeria and the world.

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During the commissioning of the new Lagos terminal last week, the ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Nigeria, Mr. Cui Jianchun, described the project as a typical footprint of the “Belt and Road,” which has added new momentum to the friendly economic and trade relations between both countries.

Besides the investment from China, $100 million counterpart funding was injected by the Federal Government during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.

President Muhammadu Buhari who commissioned the project, said the terminal will increase airport operations, increase passenger movement to about 14 million per annum, create about 3,000 direct and indirect employment opportunities, and increase inflow of Foreign Direct Investments and cause exponential growth in the Gross Domestic Product.

The China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC) said that the old terminal has been in use for 44 years, which made an upgrade necessary. The new terminal has an architectural acreage for the new terminal is 50,887 m² and is a multi-functional modern international airport including hotels, restaurants, and leisure.

How new terminal will impact Nigeria’s economy

We have done some evaluations and assessments about this project and can say that it is very important for Nigeria because Lagos is a metropolitan city, so, we have built this to international standards. With this state-of-the-art terminal, I believe we can attract more passengers to Nigeria. After COVID-19, countries are opening and people would like to come  in and out of Nigeria and they will do that through this gateway. Through this terminal, we can access the international community and people will benefit from this. This is a flagship project for China and Nigeria.

Nigeria is currently planning a huge railway project and we are working on this project. If we have a railway, it would be easy for people to travel and we are working on that. The challenge however is how we can get the money. How can we get reliable and reasonable terms of the finance? This is the challenge for us. But we are working hard and we are talking with the banks to do this for us. The banks are using their professional expertise.

They are calculating the risks and how they can get the money back because we are in a difficult situation now. We are looking at how we can lift people out of poverty. During my speech at the commissioning of the terminal, I told the President that whatever the project, plan, policy, partners, the most important thing is the political support. So this is very important. The two countries from the top levels, from business levels, from people to people, from party to party, we need to work hard to build this trust. This will benefit the economy, security and international relationships.

Our investment in Nigeria’s aviation industry will spur development

I have my personal understanding of Nigeria. We need a comprehensive, sustainable and systematic approach. Railway, highway, airport are key to migration. People cannot afford to buy tickets if there is no migration. How can we be productive by ourselves? There are five goals for two countries to work together.

Political consonance, economic cooperation and international correlation and security and military collaborations and people to people communications. We are currently engaged in infrastructure development. The second is ICT. We need the digital economy, we need the 5G technology and also we need a value added industry. That means we can produce more commodities not only consumed by Nigerians but we can export to China.

We need a value added industry to create jobs and to give people an income. We need to know how we can attract more foreign investment to Nigeria. We need to invest in agriculture, oil and gas industry amongst others. Foreign investments only rely on our domestic resources. So, we have to think of not only infrastructure but we have to think in a holistic way, which also involves the 5s. These include security, structures, speed, synergy and supervision. Nigeria has huge human and natural resources which is not what every country can possess. So we need the technology to aid production.

Power problem in Nigeria

I was very disappointed this morning because I got up at 5am and we tried to get a small airplane from Abuja to Lagos. We also booked a helicopter from the airport to Lekki. I could not fly there because there was no electricity. Power is the biggest challenge for Nigeria. This is very important for Nigeria. So, I am working hard to see what we can do. I am talking with the ministry about nuclear power. Nuclear power is not just about power. It is also about young people and technology. We have solar energy and oil and gas and we are working hard to bring some China investments here but we need a policy to support this because it is a long term investment. If we have this policy like we had in China, it will give us the time. But now, if we can only rely on domestic resources, we cannot make rapid progress.

China’s investment in Nigeria’s hospitality industry

Nigeria is a beautiful country, with a nice landscape. People deserve to travel to a lot of places in Nigeria. We want to travel freely. Every year, we have 103 million people traveling out of China. I have talked to the Minister of Information and Culture to see if we can get only one percent of that number to visit Nigeria. That would mean 1.3 million people from China can visit Nigeria yearly. This is possible.  In the coming years, if security changes, tourism will boost in Nigeria. The Chinese love to visit Africa. We need investments to build tourism in Nigeria.

Courtesy of Sun Newspaper