In order to ensure maximum utilisation of its modern airport, Akwa Ibom State has gone ahead to float its own airline company.
Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom announced this during the annual state Christmas carol, themed “Let the people say Amen”.
According to Emmanuel, the newly-floated airline will be the first state government-owned airline in Africa and ready for commercial scheduled flights.
It was learnt that the new airline has a fleet of three aircraft, but service will commence with two aircraft which have already been branded in Canada, while the third aircraft will join the fleet by February 2019.
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“Our state-owned and run Obong Victor Attah International Airport has a Category 2 runaway and work is on-going on the second taxiway. To ensure that our state remains the destination of choice for foreign investors, we are launching Ibom Air, our wholly owned airline that will lessen the problems currently being encountered by our numerous air travellers,” he said.
While this is a welcomed development, unfortunately, this is not so for Nigeria’s national carrier unveiled to takeoff last December at the Farnborough Air Show in London that was later suspended, despite the huge amount already committed to the project. There has been uncertainty over the future of Nigeria Air as Nigeria’s Aviation industry stakeholders have also unanimously suggested that lack of consultation was largely responsible for the eventual suspension of Nigeria Air.
National carrier tussle
In August 2015, the Federal government set up a 13-member committee to consult with international partners for the establishment of a national airline for Nigeria. In the same year, the committee submitted its report to the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Aviation, Hajiya Binta Bello.
The airline’s predecessor Nigeria Airways was founded in 1958 after the dissolution of West African Airways Corporation, WAAC. It held the name WAAC Nigeria until 1971, when it was rebranded. It stopped operations in 2003. The defunct airline is owing pensioners arrears running into billions of Naira. Though some of the pensioners had been paid up in September 2018.
The government then went into partnership with Virgin Atlantic, to establish Virgin Nigeria. Virgin Atlantic, however, sold its stake after several disagreements with the Ministry of Transportation and an alleged breach of an agreement by the Federal Government to operate from the international terminal.
Jimoh Ibrahim, who bought Virgin Atlantic’s stake shut down the airline shortly after, due to what he termed sabotage.