Governor Udom Emmanuel has described former Governor, Obong Victor Attah, as a man of vision who has maintained a strong passion for the development of Akwa Ibom State.
While receiving a report on the Assessment of the Maintenance, Repairs and Overhaul unit of the Ibom International Airport, from the initiator of the project, Obong Attah in his office.
“That is one thing about vision. Anybody who carries the vision, the vision does not die, no matter what you do especially as far as the carrier of that vision is still there.”
Mr Emmanuel who thanked Obong Attah for the indepth and comprehensive report, reassured that his administration since it advent in 2015, has not relented in bringing the vision to fruition.
He recounted the assurances he had extracted from the Chief of Air Staff, of partnership that will enable Airforce planes to actually be maintained here.
So far, Mr Emmanuel said, “we have recessed what is there, we have conducted what I could call, an expert opinion on the stage of completion on that and also what we need to do…”
The Governor said, “we brought in our international valuation expert too who did the valuation because we are in talks with so many partners, we’ve also visited a whole lot of Aviation Maintenance Cooperate bodies across the globe.
He said, he was impressed with the wide knowledge of engineering details in addition to the knowledge of architecture exhibited by Obong Attah, saying “as an Architect, you are speaking more like an Engineer here.”
He said the delay in the project completion came as a result of the need to commit an operator to the facility.
“But propendorous of the opinions favoured the fact that, why can’t we sign an operator first with the condition that the operator will give us time to complete.”
“We want that assurance that at least the regional flight here, all those aircraft, will be maintained here because this is one asset that activity must bring revenue and revenue is what will bring sustenance and return of whatsoever investment that we are making.”
He expressed readiness to collaborate with the proposed national carrier, and promised to give concession on the 70% completed MRO, to whoever is ready to accept the offer.
“We are willing as a state to give a whole lot of concession to whoever will come in, in terms of equity, sharing, and we can also forgo our goodwill because of probably what we’ve invested on this project so far.”
Mr Emmanuel promised the elder statesman that he will have a detailed study of the report, “and also align with what our consultant has actually given to us and then speak with Engr Ime Ekanem and see what is the fastest approach to this.”
Maintaining that his government was bent on investing in projects capable of ensuring return on investments, unlike monuments that are not worth being called a project”
Earlier (Arc.)Obong Attah said he was elated with the attention received from the government and said, the “Governor’s response as given in this report says the government intends to create an enabling environment for the saving up of a World Class MRO facility that will attract patronage from all over the world especially Africa.”
The visionary former Governor was happy that the “MRO will further be encouraged to start manufacturing of Air planes parts with the intent to go into manufacturing for the long term given the examples of Ethiopia and Brazil. That was a very encouraging report.”
Attah said his parley with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority to the MRO building at Ibom Airport, led to the report on the facility which he was presenting to the Government.
He said there is nothing in the West African Sub region or in the entire African continent close to what we have at Ibom Airport, even though it has remained uncompleted.
He acknowledged the absence of a major Maintenance Repair and Overhaul, MRO facility in Africa, which study show has caused a problem for the Aviation Industry in the West and Central African region, leading to a high cost of aircraft maintenance in the region.
Contrary to media reports on the project conception, Obong Attah said on the issue of no feasibility study, the then Minister of Aviation encouraged the state to build the MRO, as the Federal Government was concentrating on starting a new airline.
He said the Federal Government “encouraged us to build an MRO facility so that there will be that symbiotic relationship between the two and there was a proper feasibility study conducted and even reviewed before we started the work.”
He recounted that the Governor invited him and Engr. Ime Ekanem the pioneer consultant that he used to kickstart the development of the airport, and they proceeded on the assessment tour which took them to major airport developers in the world.
Submitting the report of their assessment, which included a seven step suggestion to the realisation of the MRO, Obong Attah explained that the aviation industry in Nigeria was still expanding with the recent acquisation of new aircrafts by operators, saying the MRO will be very viable when completed.
“Those are the 7 steps that we have identified but the most critical is first of all, to revise that feasibility study, to get what is there on ground now, fully accessed so that you have a determination and a clear knowledge of how much will be required to bring it to completion and then I would like to recommend to the government as they said, take the bull by the horn, complete that building and if you do that, you will be put into operation,” Attah added.
On Obong Attah’s delegation were the Chairman of Ibom International Airport Development Company, Otuekong Idongesit Nkanga, former Ibom International Airport Project Coordinator, Engr. Ime Ekanem, Consultant on the Airport Project, Captain Mfon Udom, Board Members of the Ibom Airport Development Company including Mr Nsima Uwak, Rt. Hon. Peter Linus Umoh and Distinguished Senator Anietie Okon.
By Ndifreke P. Akpan