IbomAir: Udom Strategy On Job Creation
By Franklyn Isong
“Ibom Air Limited is a limited liability company. When you have a limited liability company, it is different from the owner. It will be run by corporate governance,” Akan Okon.
Keeping close tabs on the progress of Ibom Air, the Akwa Ibom State-owned commercial airline, on Monday, I had an official meeting with the Commissioner for Special Duties and Aviation Development, Mr Akan Okon. It was strictly official. For me, journalists should always sought and obtained facts from relevant government official(s) instead of speculating information in the media space. That is the duty of watchdogs. Though, it is painstaking, time consuming but, always rewarding at last and result oriented, if we are to stick to the purpose of journalism.
Overtime, I have maintained that a government begets the kind of media and publicity it deserves. Any government that does not grant journalists free access to facts and figures of its programmes and projects, simply leaves journalists to go to press with whatever they (journalists) can lay hands on as information. Whether rightly or wrongly.
The Ministry of Aviation Development is new in Akwa Ibom, but the commissioner manning it, is not new. He had served in other ministries before being redeployed to the ministry. This piece is not about the commissioner but about the progress made on Ibom Air. This is one project of the Udom Emmanuel’s administration very dear to my heart. Recalled I was among those who endorsed it. With the information made available to me, that endorsement subsist!
Akan Okon had used our interaction to re-assure Akwa Ibom people that Ibom Airline will surely fly within this May.
“What I like to say is that, we are doing everything to make sure that Ibom Air is up and running before inauguration of the new administration on the 29th May, 2019. You know that there are regulatory processes that you have to follow before establishing an airline. Sometimes it takes a longer time, depending on how sound your equipment are and how you are able to put your house in order. It can take between nine months to one year to get through the processes. But, I want to say that Ibom Air has received good cooperation from the regulators.
“There are five stages before approval is given by the aviation regulatory body. We are through with stages one to three. We are on stages four and five. Stage four and five involves inspection of the base of the facilities for the airline operation. For example, we are going to be operating to Lagos and Abuja, and it is expected that we have Station Offices in those areas. After the inspection, there will be what is called “demonstration of flight” which the regulators will come and go with the cabin executive and the pilot. They will fly the plane to those destinations that we have proposed to fly, and standard practice is that, we must go fifty hours on air. When once that is done, we are good to go! It is mandatory that we must follow the laid down processes but unfortunately, currently, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) in Lagos are having audit. We are expecting that come first week of May, they will come to Akwa Ibom and these processes do not take much time. We are very certain that by this month (May, 2019), we are going to fly Ibom Airline.
“We have aviation sector masterplan for our State which started with the Airport development. Can you imagine what would have happened if we didn’t have an airport in Uyo? You would be going to Port Harcourt or Calabar and with the attendant risk, because of the bad nature of the road. So, when the entire aviation roadmap for the State was conceived; you had the Airport, MRO and Airline.
“I have given you the assurances that Ibom Airline has come to fill a gap in our economy. For example now, I was supposed to go to Abuja for a meeting today, but because I had certain things to do yesterday, if go today, I won’t be able to attend that meeting because it is slated for 12 o’clock and I am told that the flight to Abuja is 1pm. It therefore means that, what we are currently suffering is that, if you have a meeting in Abuja tomorrow, you have to spend three days for a one day meeting. For business people, they are going to pay hotel accommodation. All these expenses are going to affect their bottom line and profits margin. Also people coming to the State to do business, because of non-availability of flights, it becomes a problem for them. But with Ibom Airlines, if I am to travel today, it won’t be a problem because, there will be early morning flight to Abuja and Lagos. We are going to have about three flights a day. I think it is something that every peace loving, patriotic Akwa Ibom person should appreciate.
This initiative and investment have been made possible by His Excellency, Governor Udom Emmanuel,” Mr. Okon said.
The commissioner added that employment of Akwa Ibom people remains top priority of Governor Emmanuel’s government and Aviation industry is one of such ways of job creation.
• Franklyn Isong is a public affairs commentator and conscience of the society