Saturday comment2

Ibom airline will make a lot of difference, writes Michael Bassey

The birth of Ibom Airline couldn’t have come at a better time. The launch of the airline on Wednesday   is truly the ice on the cake for the good people of Akwa Ibom.  If anyone was in doubt of the managerial acumen of the state governor, Udom Emmanuel, that launch was enough to shut the mouths of pundits.  Truth be told, how many state governors still have the time to concentrate on governance now, not to talk of embarking on monumental projects?

What we usually witness in Nigeria is that governance temporarily goes on recess during elections. Intrigues, backstabbing and all sorts of evils take the centre stage at the expense of quality leadership. Sadly, the country has been on this rigmarole for so long that people have accepted this unwholesome trend as a norm.

 For people like me, news of a governor still actively involved in the business of governance in spite of stories here and there about plans to turn Akwa Ibom State to another Warsaw, is quite heart-warming.  It is truly a case of everybody giving what they have. While some politicians can only spew up the dregs in their hearts, some bring out the gems in their systems, hence the relevance of a scriptural verse that says out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. 

Not only that, Ibom airline is born at a time when the only achievement some state governors could lay claim to is their ability to pay workers’ salaries.    Never mind such payments are often staggered and most irregular. The other time one of the governors in the North came out publicly to announce that workers should stop expecting to be paid regularly because states were not created to pay salaries only.  Such is the kind of shamelessness in some of our leaders. 

Having said this, it is important to acknowledge the foresightedness of Emmanuel and also congratulate the people of Akwa Ibom for having such an astute administrator for a governor – a governor that does not see payment of workers’ salaries as an achievement, but an obligation.

It will be recalled that salaries and gratuities of workers in the state were paid in arrears by the present administration in the state despite the fact that these salaries were owed by previous administrations. No wonder, typical Akwa Ibom indigenes won’t hesitate to tell anyone that cares to listen where their hearts are, and who gets their votes in the oncoming governorship election in the state, where Udom is seeking a reelection.  To them, they couldn’t have had it better than what have been experiencing in the last three and half years. The lines have indeed been falling on them in pleasant places.

The industrial revolution going on in the state is unparalleled. Even Vice President Yemi Osinbajo attested to this.  He once described the syringe factory in the state as a flagship project and one that would be of benefit to the entire country.  That testimonial coming from the opposition in Nigeria is a big deal especially when viewed from the background that all that the ruling APC could dish out to the  opposition Peoples Democratic Party since it came to power has been bashing upon bashing.

 Ibom Air is expected to employ 300 people directly while 3,000 people will be involved in its daily operations. At the launching of the aircraft at the Victor Attah International Airport  in Uyo,  Emmanuel said the airline is a monumental achievement in the state. He said the aircraft, C-FWNK, is only six years old with a sitting capacity of about 90 persons and constitutes the newest and modern fleet of the Canadian airbus. Imagine the ease that the airline will bring to doing business in Akwa Ibom. This is an oil-rich state with many attendant businesses. But sometimes, getting flight for important meetings is hindered due to hiccups often experienced in existing airlines’ operations.

In the words of Udom, “The launching of Ibom Air is a monumental achievement in Akwa Ibom State and indeed Africa. The journey to achieve Ibom airline started in 2016 and today, it is a reality.

“This is the only state across the country that runs and operates an international airport. We are the only state that runs a Category Two run way.

“I want to reassure the former governor, Obong Victor Attah that very soon, the MRO will be a place that will maintain fleets of aircraft across the country.’’

Today, Akwa Ibom is not only running a state-owned airport, it is also running an airline. Besides, there are assurances that the state government will also run the Ibom Air, as a profitable business. It is important to stretch the angle of profitability because that is the bane of government business in Nigeria. Many of them are run at a loss and become moribund overnight. But, it is expected that the governor based on his pedigree of managing successful business in the past will manage this well too.  The governor has said the airline will operate routes that would give preference to Akwa Ibom people, and that the government would soon launch one of the best terminal buildings in Nigeria. We can’t wait to have these promises fulfilled.

For the past three and half years, the state government has focused on developing the state’s economy on land, air and water. So far, the state government has constructed over 160 kilometres of roads and built 12 bridges across the state among other infrastructure.

The roads include the 19.7km Uyo-Etinan Road, 39.4km Etinan-Ndon Eyo Road, 7.3km Ebekpo-Ikot Ebidang Road, 3.5km Ikot Udom Road with 15m Span Bridge in Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area, 5km Ikot Usop-Ikot Edeghe-Ikot Ekpuk Road with 30m Span Bridge in Mkpat Enin Local Government Area and 5km Mkpok-Okat Road in ONNA Local  Government Area, among others.

The state government has also made significant progress at the Ibom deep seaport. According to the governor, the Ibom deep seaport will soon commence operations before the expiration of his second term in 2023.

  The establishment of the seaport will no doubt provide job opportunities for the people of the state, because anywhere you have a seaport in the world, it is capable of changing the narrative of the society because of the employment opportunity it creates. It is one of the secrets to the wealth of Dubai, contrary to the belief of many that the country is making its money from oil and tourism. The business around the seaport was used to develop the city.

In three and half years, the  Emmanuel’s administration has developed 11,000 hectares of coconut plantation; 2,100 hectares of cassava plantation in 15 LGAs; registered 48,000 rice farmers for the CBN anchor borrowers’ scheme and trained 450 youths on cocoa maintenance. The state has gone further to establish Special Cocoa Maintenance Scheme (SCMS) to train farmers and youths on pruning/shade management, under brushing, and tree care by fumigation, in order to ensure the improved yields from 300 kg/hectare to 2, 000kg/hectare.

In addition, the state has distributed 500,000 improved cocoa seedlings to farmers at a highly subsidised rate across the 28 cocoa producing local government areas in the state. Right now, the state hatchery known as the Akwa Prime Hatchery hatches 10,000 day old cheeks per week. This is aside the free distribution of improved corn seedlings to farmers.

All these are just a few of the achievements of the Udom’s administration that has continued to endear him to the heart of the Akwa Ibom people.