Escalator at Liberia’s New US$50M Airport Terminal Damaged; Govt to Investigate Cost of Project

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MONROVIA – The Roberts International Airport (RIA), the latest pride of Liberia, built by the Chinese at a whopping cost of US$50 million, a loan of course from EXIM Bank of China, and dedicated on July 25, 2019, is already tearing apart – gradually. 


Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]


Passengers leaving what is supposed to be the new and improved terminal at the Roberts International Airport are being caught in their tracks upon seeing the escalator at the arrival lounge already damaged. The escalator at the departure lounge reportedly does not function properly all the time.

The damage is shedding new light on the high cost of the renovation in the same range of the ministerial complex and the SKD Sports Complex.

It is not clear what led to the damage of the escalator as many attempts to get comments from the Public Relations Officer of the Liberia Airport Authority (LAA) did not materialize. 

The passenger terminal was designed to process approximately 350,000 to 500,000 passengers annually, the LAA release noted.

The terminal has two jet bridges, two escalators, two elevators, ten check-in counters, two baggage carousels, a large immigration facility, a water treatment plant and a power substation on the outside. It also has a two-gate car park and several other features in the courtyard.

Concerns are also being raised that the administrators of the airport may have rushed to open the new terminal without properly testing all the key facilities.

In October 2016, the Governments of Liberia and the Chinese EXIM Bank signed a landmark loan agreement to refurbish the runway and the Terminal of the RIA project in the amount of US$50 million.

The loan agreement constitutes the relationship between Liberia and China over the years. 

Liberia’s President at the time, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who oversaw the signing of agreement, believes that the new look of the country’s biggest airport will improve that of the nation while contributing economic growth.

“The Airport terminal is important for growth. This work will enhance our economic growth. The coming in of this airport will increase the traffic and capacity for more flights,” said the then Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Boimah Kamara.

“The giant ministerial complex cost US$55million and the tiny airport terminal US$50 million. The terminal was built by loan so big kickbacks were involved. The Ministerial Complex was built by China Aid so no Ellen Government official was involved. See the difference?”

– Source familiar with the investigation plans

The RIA remained disfigured from the 1990 from the bombardment of missiles during the years of civil war up to around 2001, when the Government of President Charles Taylor, began post-war repair works on the RIA, through the Government of Taiwan. Repair of the lighting systems and fencing of the entire Airport were some of the works done.

But Charles Taylor resigned as President of Liberia in 2003, which brought to automatic end his government’s work on the RIA.

The renovation was carried out by a state-owned Chinese Company named China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) Limited, founded in 1980.

FrontPageAfrica has gathered that the Weah-led administration is scrutinizing the size of the loan and the actual worth of the new terminal.

“The giant ministerial complex cost US$55million and the tiny airport terminal US$50 million. The terminal was built by loan so big kickbacks were involved. The Ministerial Complex was built by China Aid so no Ellen Government official was involved. See the difference?” a top government official familiar with the loan scrutinization told FrontPageAfrica on the basis of anonymity.

The ministerial complex is the second largest building constructed by China in Africa after the African Union (AU) Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It includes several large buildings for government ministries, agencies and other multipurpose functions.

In response to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s request to the Chinese government, the two countries signed the US$60 million agreement in 2012.

Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan and Zhao Jianhua, then Liberia’s Foreign Minister and then Chinese Ambassador to Liberia respectively, formally penned the agreement on September 11, 2012 in Monrovia.

In October 2018, Sierra Leone cancelled a US$400m Chinese-funded project to build a new airport outside the capital Freetown.

Former President Ernest Bai Koroma signed the loan agreement with China before he lost elections in March in 2018.

At the time, the World Bank and the IMF warned that the project would impose a heavy debt burden.

The decision comes amid concern that many African countries risk defaulting on their debts to China.

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