Enugu govt shuns United Nigeria’s plan to establish hub in Akanu Ibiam Airport

Posted by News Express | 14 May 2022 | 463 times

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•Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi

 

There are indications that the plan by United Nigeria Airlines to establish its operational hub in Akanu Ibiam Airport,Enugu, may not be realised because of alleged lack of enthusiasm from the state government.

Not a few were elated when the emerging domestic carrier announced that it would use Enugu as its operational hub. The idea was welcomed by many because the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos is already congested.

 Again, the spokesman of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Sam Adurogboye, recently said that locating such hubs at other airports would reduce the pressure on Lagos and also reduce delays in passenger processing at the nation’s busiest airport.

This is the reason why it was heartily welcomed when Ibom Air announced that it would be operating from Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom state, Azman Air and Max Air operating from Kano, while Air Peace, Dana Air, Overland Airways, Green Africa, Arik Air and Aero Contractors operate from Lagos.

The last time an airline operated from Enugu was in 2007 when Sosoliso Airlines ceased operation after the tragic accident involving one of its flights in Port Harcourt. Industry insiders said the airline operated profitably before its demise and it never serviced the lucrative Lagos-Abuja route, but opened some of the routes that have become commercial success today in the South East and South South regions.

Information from the United Nigeria Airlines indicated that it would terminate its plan to locate its hub in Enugu because it was unable to secure a place to build its head office and it also planned to site its maintenance facility there.

It was learnt that after the initial request to establish its operational headquarters in Enugu, the Enugu state government welcomed the idea and made promises of support but has failed to fulfill any of the promises.

The Chairman of United Nigeria Airlines, Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, who was already exasperated by the response he was getting from the Enugu state government said the decision to establish the airline’s hub in Enugu might be rescinded any moment because of the disappointment the management of the airline received from the state government.

“We have the best of intensions to go to Enugu. We are not getting all the support we looked forward to getting from the state government despite all the promises. I am afraid that if nothing is done soon, it might affect our decision to be in Enugu. If we don’t get what we want; we may have to rescind our decision to make Enugu our operational hub,” Okonkwo said.

He added that he was encouraged by the initial enthusiasm of the state government and the promises it made to the airline, but he was shocked when that hope oscillated to coldness and lack of response for the state government.

“We are not getting the necessary cooperation and we have had meetings, promises were made but not one thing out of many of the promises has been fulfilled. We intend to have a befitting head office in Enugu with hundreds of staff. If you start renting or buying land at commercial rate in such environment it will involve huge amount of money. We are not estate developers to buy and resell. We expected that at least the state should have considered allocation of some plots of land for us to have at official rate. We are not saying give us free,” he explained.

Okonkwo also disclosed that a land that was earmarked for his company was being contested by the Nigeria Air Force and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), so he expected the state government to step in and resolve the matter, but so far it has done nothing about it.

“The space at the airport they earmarked for us; there seems to be some internal issues with FAAN and other stakeholders at the airport, like the Nigeria Air Force. The state government has promised to come between FAAN and Air Force to smoothen whatever is the issue so that this could be resolved as quickly as possible,” Okonkwo said.

He also said that the Enugu state government understands the benefits of having the airline locate its hub in Enugu in terms of job creation, in terms of revenue from taxes and other opportunities, so he expected encouragement and incentives, but so far Enugu government had deflated the company’s hope.

“We are investors; we are willing and available to play our own part. In my discussion with them, there was no any reason for me to believe that they do not understand the value of our being in Enugu. We have to add to the economy of the state. That is our state for tax purposes. We are moving in hundreds of staff who will pay their income taxes and engage in other expenses, including expatriates. They showed good knowledge of the value we are going to bring, but their inability to take steps to facilitate the things we need is what I do not know. For me, we are almost giving up,” he said.

Investigations at the Enugu airport confirmed the land in dispute. Informed source from the airport said that the Minister of Aviation and the Enugu state government are in discussion over the land.

“The land issue is before the state government with the Minister of Aviation,” a source said.

An official of the state government also stated that the government would not allow the company to move its planned hub from Enugu, promising that the Governor of the state would respond to United Nigeria Airlines’ request.  (THISDAY)


Source: News Express

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