By Emmanuel Uffot
Friday June 7, will remain evergreen in the memory of Akwa Ibom citizens on one hand and the administration of Governor Udom Emmanuel as the State Government unveil its own airline amidst excitement by those that throng the Victor Attah International Airport, Akwa Ibom to witness the inaugural flight.
The maiden flight was executed with two Bombadier aircraft types being the first batch of the airline fleets, scheduled to operate Uyo to Lagos and Uyo to Abuja.
At the unveiling ceremony, the State Governor Udom Emmanuel who is still basking in the euphoria of his second term inauguration represented by the Deputy Governor Moses Ekpo, described the unveiling of the state owned airline the first in the history of Nigeria as a monumental achievement not only in Nigeria but in Africa stressing that the unveiling of the airline was a fulfillment of his blueprint for the state hence the need for every Akwa Ibom person to be very proud of the state. He admonished the people to shun partisan politics and sentiments and come together for the growth of the state.
He said 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.
Governor Emmanuel noted that Airlines business 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.
“Today’s occasion is a watershed moment for us as a people,Never in the history of this nation or indeed anywhere else in Africa that I can recall, has a state government gone into airline operations. Akwa Ibom state is, therefore, the first to achieve this, and we should all collectively give ourselves a pat on the back.”
He said the takeoff of Ibom Air amidst doubts by critics and opposition was a testimony to his administration’s vision for “rapid industrialization” of the state.
“Investors will continue to flock into our state, given the ease of traveling the launch of this airline will engender, the peace we enjoy and the hospitality of our people. We are all winners in this”. The allays fears expressed by people on the sustainability of the airline given the experience of the defunct Nigeria Airways, stating emphatically that the airline will be run as an economically viable venture in the most efficient way.
“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,” he said.
He called on all Akwa Ibom indigenes especially the opposition to support the project regardless of their political affiliations, as the project is for the benefit of all and does not recognize political affiliations.
“Finally, let me use this opportunity to appeal to some of our people in the opposition; it is not everything about us that should be coloured by, or be seen through the prism of politics.“We should learn to separate development from politics.“Ibom Air is a huge achievement for us all.“When we board these aircraft to either Lagos or Abuja and back to Uyo, the Cabin Crew will not ask you whether you are a PDP or APC card-carrying member.“Sponsoring articles in the newspapers aimed at dismissing the great works we have done such as this, or telling the world Ibom Air will never become a reality, is highly unfortunate and sad.“We are better than this”.
The outgoing Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki in his goodwill message, congratulated Akwa Ibom people for having a leader in the person of Mr Udom Emmnauel whom he said has the interest of his people at heart. Stress that the unveiling ceremony was a milestone in the history of the state to celebrate a man that has a ream for his people.
“Today we celebrate the audacity s of hope, today we celebrate a man that has a dream for his people, who does not stop until the dream is realized, ‘What he has done shows he is thinking of how to make life better for his people, how to improve governance and provide good leadership.’
He said members of PDP are proud to have Governor Emmanuel as one of them in the PDP family and lauded him for creating opportunities for people to have jobs and for investment.
In his welcome address, the Chairman, Ibom Air, Air Commodore (rtd) Idongesit Nkanga who went memory lane said Akwa Ibom was the first state to develop and operate an international airport.
Commodore Nkanga maintained 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”.
Similarly ,The technical consultant, Ibom Air, Captain Mfon Udom one of the founding directors of defunct ADC Airlines said Ibom Air was one of the vehicles to drive the economy which Akwa Ibom people will benefit.
According to him, the aircraft (Bombardier CRJ 900), would maintain regular daily flights to both Lagos and Abuja respectively, urging Akwa Ibom residents to use the services of the airline.
Captain Udom announced that another aircraft will join the two this month, while another three will join in August, 2020 and March 2021.
The plan for Ibom Air he said is to be an international airline that will cover the broad spectrum of the day connecting Akwa Ibomite with the rest of the world.
Huge profits according to him, await Akwa Ibom people, noting that up to 3000 people will be engaged in one way or the other.
The unveiling ceremony had prominent citizens of the state including the deputy governor Moses Ekpo and former governor Victor Attah whom the Ibom International Airport was recently named after him by Governor Emmanuel in attendance.
There was ecstasy among the crowd at the unveiling ceremony as the maiden flight, a Bombardier CRJ 900 series with registration number 5N-BWM, took off by 12 p.m for the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos. Followed by the second flight which took off for Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
The launching of Ibom Air to fly Lagos and Abuja from Uyo now swelled the number of airlines servicing Uyo route. And it is coming few months after Air Peace one of the strong prominent airlines in Nigeria now launched its flight into Uyo route.
The launch and take off of the Akwa Ibom State owned airline named Ibom Air signals the beginning of the second term of Governor Udom Emmanuel and remains the first major project inauguration in his second term.