There is a palpable air of uncertainty in Akwa Ibom State over the fate of the state’s airline enterprise, Ibom Air. Already, opposition politicians in the state are alleging that the three planes currently parked at the Obong Victor Attach International Airport, were leased from a Canadian firm for a few months to boost Governor Udom Emmanuels’s re-election bid, and will soon be returned to the owners.
According to the opposition, the Udom administration leased the three airplanes in an alleged desperate bid to gain cheap popularity and score political points at the governorship poll in which he defeated his All Progressives Congress (APC) main challenger, Nsima Ekere.
The Udom administration last February unveiled Ibom Air with the arrival of two Bombardier aircrafts while others were expected to arrive before the general elections.
The now re-elected governor had noted that the launch of the airline was a monumental achievement not only in Nigeria but in Africa claiming that its unveiling was a fulfillment of his blueprint for the state hence the need for every Akwa Ibom person to be very proud of the state maintaining that the state can achieve a lot together if her people can come together.
He promised that the state government will not relent in its effort at managing the airport, disclosing that the run way has been upgraded to category two run way, while assuring that the MRO would soon commence maintenance of air lines including Ibom air fleet.
Airlines business according to the governor is not an all comer’s affairs but for those who are tested and proven adding that he has what it takes to be in government even as has come to be adjudged as one of the best, adding, ‘’we want to run the Ibom airline as one of the most efficient, economically viable and profitable that others will come to copy our business modules. The air line could run three flights, Lagos to Abuja out of Uyo every day.’’
Chairman of Ibom Air, Idongesit Nkanga, had noted at the time that Akwa Ibom was the first state to develop and operate an international airport, maintaining that with the launching of the Ibom Air, the state has blazed the trail to be the first to own an airline adding, ‘’so will it be with Ibom Deep Seaport’’.
According to him, ‘’I am proud to be a part of this magic moment’’, where 15 industries are gotten in three and a half years as well as being the second most attractive destination of direct foreign investment.
While expressing the believe that the second term of the governor will bring better deals for the people of the state, he added that the technical consultant, Ibom Air, Captain Mfon Udom said Ibom Air was one of the vehicles to drive the economy which Akwa Ibom people will benefit.
On paper, Ibom Air was planned to be an international airline that will cover the broad spectrum of the day connecting Akwa Ibom with the rest of the world, with a huge profit prospects, and job opportunities for 3000 people.
Apparently jolted by the claim of the opposition, Special Duties and Aviation Development Commissioner, Akan Okon, has said that the three aircrafts were acquired on a ‘’finance lease option’’ and not wet leased as alleged by the opposition.
He said the Udom administration of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) made down payment on them and within a specified period the cost will be paid off, pointing out that to operate an airline in Nigeria, a potential investor like the Akwa Ibom State Government must have at least three aircrafts and the regulatory authorities are expected to carry out base inspection in Abuja, Lagos and Uyo where Ibom Air is expected to fly.
Continuing, the commissioner said that before the airline can commence commercial flight operation, it must ungergo proven flights which is one of the conditions of the regulatory agency, and assured that Ibom Air will be a success story and run profitablly as there will be no cutting of corners as world best practices would be applied in all its dealings.
According to him, ‘’what makes the difference in any society is leadership. It is our expectations that this airline will fill the gap that has been lacking in the industry. Akwa Ibom will access various financial options available to fund Ibom Air and expand it.’’