Factbox: Here’s how the Prempeh I International Airport came to be

On May 10, 2024, President Akufo-Addo officially inaugurated Prempeh I International Airport, previously known as Kumasi International Airport.

However, the inauguration of the renovated airport has sparked controversy among traditional and new media commentators, questioning its ownership.

While some attribute it as an achievement of the current Akufo-Addo-led administration, others credit the immediate past John Mahama government.

Fact-Check Ghana has looked into the claims and presents the facts below.

Construction agreement for the Prempeh I International Airport was granted in 1940, with operational commencement in 1943, initially serving as a military air force base for the British Royal Air Force during World War II.

Significant renovations were undertaken in the 1970s under the leadership of General I.K Acheampong. This included the addition of taxiway lights and the extension of the runway southwards.

On December 1, 1993, President Jerry John Rawlings oversaw the commissioning of a new Terminal building, lighting system installation, runway extension, and the introduction of a VOR/DME. Subsequently, in 1999, the airport transitioned from a full military base to a domestic airport.

In 2008, Bans Consult Limited spearheaded renovation efforts, refurbishing arrival and departure halls, the control room, the rescue and fire station, and constructing a VIP Lounge, all in preparation for the hosting of the African Cup of Nations 2008 (CAN 2008) by Ghana.

The Redevelopment of the Prempeh I International Airport

Although equipped with full security, customs, and immigration personnel since 2003, Prempeh Airport primarily served regional flights. Despite its international designation since 2003, the airport required substantial infrastructure upgrades and effective implementation to fully realize its potential.

In 2013, during the tenure of former President John Dramani Mahama, the Ghanaian government initiated a staged enhancement project for the Prempeh I International Airport. The project aimed to establish essential infrastructure supporting both domestic and international flights, including provisions for night operations- making it operate as an international airport. This project was inaugurated on December 15, 2014.

According to a Daily Graphic Online report, the installation of the aeronautical ground lighting (AGL) system incurred a cost of $4.9 million to the Ghanaian taxpayers, while the rehabilitation of the airport’s runway amounted to $29 million.

On October 31, 2016, Parliament passed buyer credit and commercial contract agreements between the Government of Ghana (GOG) and some companies for the enhancement of Prempeh and Tamale International airports.

The initial buyer credit agreement was established between the government and Banco Santander S. A. and its affiliates, totalling €65,037,500. This agreement was designated for the development of a specific section of the Prempeh International Airport.

Additionally, a tied commercial loan agreement was approved between the government and Banco Santander S. A. and its affiliates, amounting to €7,762,500. This loan was allocated for the development of another section of the same airport.

Also, a commercial contract agreement between the government and Contracta Construction UK Limited was finalized, valued at €66,350,000. This contract entailed the design and execution of works aimed at advancing Prempeh International Airport.

Mr Mahama on December 5, two days to the 2016 general elections cut sod for work to begin on the Phase II of the Prempeh International Airport.

The Phase II entails the construction of a larger and more modern terminal, featuring amenities such as business class and VIP lounges, retail outlets, and various other facilities. This expansion aims to boost the airport’s passenger handling capacity from its 500,000 level annually at the time to one million.

The Phase II was also expected after completion to boast two primary hangars capable of accommodating large aircraft, along with an extended runway stretching 1,800 meters.

President Akufo-Addo cut sod for same project

On June 6, 2018, President Akufo-Addo cut sod for the same project for the second time.

The then Minister of Aviation, Cecilia Abena Dapaah, disclosed during the ceremony that funding for the project was secured through the Ministry of Finance and Santander S.A., a Spanish banking group, on December 29, 2017, following a comprehensive value-for-money analysis.

She stated that the agreement came into effect in April 2018, emphasizing that the Prempeh International Airport project was a highly anticipated endeavour for the Akufo-Addo led administration.

With an estimated cost of €66.3 million, the project was slated for completion within 24 months [2020]. It involved constructing a new terminal building with the capacity to accommodate up to one million passengers annually.

Santander S.A, was the same company that parliament on October 31, 2016 approved a credit agreement with the GOG for development of the Prempeh International Airport. The construction company, Contracta Construction UK Limited, was also the same company whose work was finalized and valued at €66,350,000 at the same date of the approval of the credit agreement in Parliament.

In a classified document sighted by Fact-Check Ghana, the only new change to the contract which led to the repeated sod cutting was a request to Parliament by the Finance Ministry to contemplate and approve a waiver of tax liability amounting to US$14,926,809 (equivalent of GHS81,257,072). This was to be used for the purchasing of materials and equipment for the Development of the   Kumasi Prempeh International Airport Phase II.

According to the document, the Contract Agreement signed between Contracta Construction UK Limited, and the GOG in 2016 acknowledged that the contract price does not include “taxes, duties and levies of whatsoever nature, including but not limited to income tax, VAT, withholding, sales, stamp taxes, import duties.”

The minority in Parliament was scandalised for hearing that President Akufo-Addo cut sod for the same project his predecessor cut sod for.

They described the exercise as “needless waste of time and scarce [sic] national resources”.

The former President on June 9, 2018, during a ‘Thank You Tour’ in the Volta Region after losing the 2016 general elections, mentioned that he initiated the groundbreaking ceremony for the project at the very location where President Akufo-Addo later did the same.

He criticized and accused the Akufo-Addo administration for scrapping the project upon assuming power, resulting in an 18-month delay before its commencement.

According to him, the contractor had “started working,” before he [John Mahama] even went to cut the sod for the project.

“Then you come back and cut the same sod, same contractor, same money, same site and you tell the contractor to build and finish within two years. What a waste of national resources,” he hinted.

Fact-Check Ghana contacted Santander S.A., the Spanish banking group whose credit facility with GOG for Phase II of the Prempeh International Airport redevelopment was approved.

This was to find out when it releases funds on the agreement that led to double sod cutting, but the company said it prefers to be mute on the issue.

“There is nothing to comment on this,” Rojo Varela Laura, Corporate Communications at Santander S.A, said in an email.

On April 11, 2019, Parliament approved an EPC/Turnkey contract valued at €58.9 million between the GOG and Contracta Construction UK Limited for the implementation of Phase III of the Prempeh Airport development project.

The Phase III funding encompassed the construction of a 2,522 square meter terminal building extension, a new fire station, a fire access road, and a new air control tower.

Additionally, it included the expansion of a 9,000 square meter car park, a 4,200 square meter access road, and the installation of two new boarding bridges.

Under the contract terms, Deutsche Bank AG London Branch was designated to provide financing through an export credit arrangement, with UK Export Finance (UKEF) offering the export credit guarantee to facilitate lending by Deutsche Bank AG London Branch.

According to a Parliamentary Hansard, the financial package constituted a comprehensive 100% financial solution. The Committee on Roads and Transport, led by Samuel Ayeh-Paye, the Chairman, briefed the House.

The Committee recommended that Phase III be executed concurrently with the Phase II of the project. This decision was said to have been reached following a thorough review and technical assessment by the contractor and stakeholders, with the aim of reducing the budget for Phase III by €4.3 million and incorporating an extended runway for the Airport if the II and III were done together.

During the presentation of his first State of the Nation Address in 2024, President Akufo Addo said the redevelopment of the Kumasi (Prempeh) International Airport was 98% completed and would be operationalized in May 2024.

From the above, it is clear that the NDC government under John Dramani Mahama secured funding and ensured the completion and operationalization of the Phase I of the Prempeh I International Airport redevelopment. Even though the NDC government also secured funding and got parliamentary approval for the second phase of the redevelopment, actual work started during the NPP government under President Akufo-Addo. The NPP government secured funding and got parliamentary approval for the Phase III of the redevelopment. President Akufo Addo commissioned and operationalized Phase II and III of the projects because both were done concurrently.

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