BY OSA OKHOMINA, Yenagoa
Bayelsa State government at the weekend opened partnership discussions with Akwa Ibom State government on the use of Ibom Air to start commercial flight operations at the state’s international airport.
The Bayelsa delegation to the negotiation in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State capital, which was led by the state deputy governor, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, noted that the choice of Ibom Air was informed by proximity and good bilateral relations between the two states.
Senator Ewhrudjakpo, explained that Akwa Ibom State has proved itself as a dependable neighbour to Bayelsa in so many ways over the years, which must be reciprocated “in the spirit of give and take”.
He expressed optimism that the partnership deal would soon be sealed for the airline to commence flights to and from Bayelsa, Lagos and Abuja, describing the two routes as the highest in traffic for the people of the state.
The deputy governor assured Bayelsans and the public of the present administration’s commitment to ensure smooth operations at the state airport, which is adjudged to be one of the best in the country by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
According to him, the state government is applying the business principle of “starting small to grow big” by going for a 50-seater aircraft in its present deal with Ibom Air to promote socioeconomic activities in the state.
Senator Ewhrudjakpo, who was accompanied by the state attorney general and commissioner for justice, Biriyai Dambo, (SAN), commissioner for finance, Mr Maxwell Ebibai, commissioner for trade, industry and investment, Hon Federal Otokito, and their transport counterpart, Hon Grace Ayakpo Ekiotenne, the deputy chief of staff, deputy governor’s office, Mr Tesufa Alex Dumbo and the manager of the Bayelsa International Airport, Mrs Elizabeth Akpama, likened efforts for acquiring the operational licence to Nelson Mandela’s “Long walk to Freedom.” He however, added that government has plans to do business with other airlines in the near future,
“Basically, we are here to discuss how we can have mutually beneficial partnership with your airline, Ibom Air. And our target is on any of your aircraft that has the capacity of about 50-seater because we don’t want to start too big.
“We believe that if we don’t start anything now, we will have the issues of why did you rush to get the commercial licence. So, we want to see how we can conclude with you and start operations. We have decided to choose Ibom Air because those who stay near each other have the tendency of exchanging pleasantries and other good things. And so, we decided that instead of going to meet commercial airlines like Orleans and Air Peace and then even the New United airlines, we agreed to start with Akwa Ibom our neighbours to set the ball rolling.
“Our intention is to do two flights for now; a trip to and from Abuja as well as a trip to and from Lagos. These are the mayor cities that our people visit very often for now either for business or for any other purpose,” he said.