President Bio constructing new airport at Lungi despite condemning former government’s proposal for a new airport

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 22 March 2022:

Sierra Leone’s “new airport project is a $270 Million Build Operate and Transfer Project between the SUMMA Group (a Turkish company) and the Government of Sierra Leone,” says Dr. John Edward Tambi, Chairman of the Office of Presidential Infrastructure Initiative. (Photo above: President Bio promised to build a bridge across the Rokel river from Lungi to mainland Freetown, but four years on there is  no bridge in sight as a new airport is being constructed at Lungi to replace the existing airport).

Dr Tambi spoke last Tuesday, 15th March 2022 during his visit to the construction site at Lungi, in the presence of the Director General of NASSIT, Mr Mohamed Fuaad Daboh.

In 2017, former President Koroma was widely criticised by President Bio and his opposition SLPP party for planning to construct a $400 million international airport at Mamamah – not far from the current site at Lungi where President Bio is now building his new airport costing a whopping $270 million.

In 2018, President Bio (photo) and his SLPP party, successfully used the former President’s proposal for a $400 million Mamamah international airport in his election campaign in 2018, which partly led to the defeat of the Koroma government at the polls, describing the Mamamah airport as a reckless waste of public funds designed to give China control of the country’s international airport. President Bio is now being accused by critics of hypocricy and duplicity.

What has come as a shock to many in Sierra Leone is Dr. John Edward Tambi’s announcement last week, saying that the new airport under construction is not an extension of the existing Lungi International Airport but a new ultra-modern airport, contrary to what Parliament had approved and what President Bio had led the people of Sierra Leone to believe.

Chairman of the Office of Presidential Infrastructure Initiative – Dr Tambi said that Sierra Leone is at the dawn of a new era in air transportation, adding that this construction project is not a modernisation of the existing Lungi International Airport.

This comes despite warning from the IMF and World Bank against the government of Sierra Leone embarking on such largescale infrastructure project as the country’s economy continues to decline and government revenue falling.

But according to Dr. Tambi, “the new Airport project is a $270 Million Build Operate and Transfer Project between the SUMMA Group (a Turkish company) and the Government of Sierra Leone,” the terms of which are yet to be fully disclosed by the government.

Dr. Tambi also said that the new airport project was conceived, planned, and developed by the Office of Presidential Infrastructure as one of the strategic flagship projects of the Bio-led Government.

When completed, the new airport despite being outside the original scope of what Parliament actually approved last year, will include a new passenger terminal, a new VIP/ Presidential terminal, a new air traffic control tower, a new parallel taxiway, a new cargo terminal, a new search and rescue/fire service, a new car park, the restructuring and resurfacing of the existing runway, a new fuel farm and the establishment of a 1.5 megawatts solar farm.

“At the end of this project, Sierra Leone will have a brand-new airport with modern international facilities and services,” Dr Tambi said.

Speaking about the SUMMA Group, Arif Erdem Arikan – Regional Manager of the Group, said that the Summa Group is a global construction company with diverse interests and operations that has been trading for over 17 years. It is one of the top 250 international construction companies, he said.

According to Arikan, the new airport will enhance the development and welfare of the local communities. SUMMA he said has vast expertise in airport construction, tourism, and housing infrastructures including the Kigali Arena in Rwanda, the Blaise Diagne International Airport in Senegal, the Radisson Blu Hotel in Libya and the Dakar Conference Centre in Senegal.

When completed, this ultra-modern airport he said, will promote Sierra Leone as one of the very best countries in the sub-region for investments.

During his election campaign in 2018, Maada Bio promised to build a $3 Billion bridge across the Rokel river from Lungi to mainland Freetown. Four years on, there is no sign of a bridge being built. He is now the President of Sierra Leone.

3 Comments

  1. This decision was the best about the Airport considering cost and the time the company will run Airport before handing it back to the country.

  2. Why not ensure adequate water supply in Freetown and its environs. From Songo to Tokeh, from East to West, North to South, a full-scale water supply sourced from the Rokel. Then into the provinces – all District headquarters well-watered, sourced from the major rives will be far better than a costly airport that could not be efficiently run. We need a sustained provision for water supply than a new airport. If we can get our water and electricity supplies right all through, development is sure to start. Let’s consider the population of fliers in the country and the necessary freight services and question the economic viability of this project.

  3. Any infrastructure, projects in Sierra leone is good for our country, as long as it is costed and fall within the projected time of completion and doesn’t fall outside the perimeter of the total amount of money that the government put aside for the project .In it’s launch we were told by Bio , this $270 millions dollars price tag will no way upset the government balance sheets .The devil is in the details .Who is funding it and who is going to pick up the shortfall if it goes over budget that’s an argument for the future.Yes the last time we had any such large investments for an airport expansion was the lungi International Airport back in 1967.The Mother of all airports in Sierra leone.Over the past few decades and despite all the ups and downs, our country have endured this gateway to Sierra Leone have with stood the test of times .

    To me is better for the Bio government to invest in what many will call an elephant project with that sort of money for airport expansion, than as we all too aware end up expanding the bank balances of some unrepentant corrupt government ministers that have no interest in seeing any development in our country however minimal they may turn out to be .To some of us this is huge amount of money that might be better spent on other projects that is crying out for government investment, but to Bio and his people this is just the loose change.

    I wonder how much thought was given to passengers, tourist, or future foreign investors that might be alighting at this state of the art airport only to find themselves caught between the devil and the deep blue water ways that separate the city of Freetown and the new state of the art airport risking life and limb on old ferries..we need the bridge that connect the dots.

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