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Akwa Ibom Has Launched Its State-Owned Airline

Portions of the Nigerian skies could be graced by a new state-owned airline, with the recent launch of Ibom Air this week. An announcement by the Akwa Ibom state government has confirmed that it has taken delivery of two aircraft which should form part of the airline’s fleet.

The official disclosure of the airplanes’ presence on the ground took place at the unveiling ceremony for the airline held in Uyo, the state capital, on Wednesday. The planes, which the government says are about six years old, were displayed at the ceremony.

Plans for the airline have been in the works for a while; Udom Emmanuel, the Akwa Ibom State governor, had said in December 2018 that the aircraft, both manufactured by Canada-based aerospace company Bombardier, had already been branded in that country, and would be available for an official launch early in 2019. Planespotter, a civil aviation database, lists a single Bombardier CRJ 900 Series aircraft as slated for delivery to Ibom Air.

However, the new carrier isn’t expected to commence flights until the state takes delivery of a third plane. The additional aircraft is expected to arrive in the country on Friday, February 22, to make up the airline’s previously announced initial fleet size.

According to the Akwa Ibom state government, a recruitment exercise for the state-owned Aviation Company has seen several hundred persons employed, with preference given to indigenes of the state.  It also says that about 3,000 people will be involved with the carrier at given time periods.   

When it does commence operations, Ibom Air could lift up to 90 persons in one flight. It’s slated to ply the Uyo-Lagos-Abuja route, which is the most travelled air pathway from the Akwa Ibom state capital. A new taxiway at Uyo’s Obong Victor Attah International Airport has been undertaken to smoothen the flow of traffic in and around it.

While the Akwa Ibom state government notes the launch of its carrier as a major achievement, questions have been raised about the cost of the project, and its viability in the long run. It’s the first airline owned by a state government in the country; publicity for the project maintains that it is, in fact, the first of this kind in Africa.  

Officials at government house Uyo will be hoping that Ibom Air succeeds, despite the past failure of the country’s federal government run airline. Several incarnations of the national carrier have been taken down by a combination of high running costs, mismanagement and an unfavourable economic environment. Just last year, a concerted effort by the Buhari-led administration to resurrect the airline ended with its launch being suspended indefinitely.

Ibom Air is one of a number of notable projects slated for or presently ongoing in Akwa Ibom state. The pick of the lot is a much-touted $2 billion deep-sea port, backed by the Federal Ministry of Transportation. That project is in its pre-construction stage, with a preferred bidder emerging in late 2018.

Featured image source: Daily Trust

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Ikenna Nwachukwu

Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.

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