Almost four months after the launch of Ibom Air by the Akwa Ibom State government, the airline has not taken to the sky.
The government, which equally owns Ibom Airport, had last February launched Ibom Air with fanfare and three aircraft that were allegedly acquired by the government for commencement of local operations.
But, since the airline was launched in March, the government has not put any of the aircraft to use, despite its promises.
Investigation by our correspondent revealed that the three Bombardier CRJ-900LR (CL-600.2D24) aircraft with the registration numbers C-FWKZ, C-FWNL and C-FWNK were previously owned and operated by different airlines in Canada and Libya.
For instance, the aircraft with the registration number C-FWKZ was manufactured in January 2008 and delivered to Suncor Energy Inc. with the registration number C-GSUM in February 2008.
The aircraft was operated for nine years by the company before it was acquired by Avmax Group on May 2017 from Canada with the new registration number N580AV.
Avmax Group later changed the registration number to C-FWKZ two months later, before Akwa Ibom State government acquired the same aircraft in March 2019, making the aircraft 11 years and four months old.
Also, another aircraft in the fleet of the airline with the registration mark: C-FWNL, was manufactured in May 2008, which made it 11 years and one month at present.
The aircraft too was previously operated by Suncor Energy between August 2008 under the registration number C-GSUA and by May 2017, was delivered to Avmax Group with the new registration number N581AV.
The same registration number of the aircraft was changed to C-FWNL in July of the same year, before it was acquired by OYA International Airline two years later from Libya with registration number 5A.
However, like the previous one, the same aircraft was acquired by the Akwa Ibom in March 2019 for domestic operations.
The third aircraft in the fleet of the state, another Bombardier CRJ-900 with the registration number C-FWNK, is eight years old.
The aircraft was previously operated by Suncor Energy Inc with the registration number C-GSUF in 2012 and later acquired by Avmax Group with the new registration number N571AV in May 2017 and changed to C-FWNK by the same airline in July 2017, but delivered to Akwa Ibom in March 2019 with the same registration number.
Suspiciously, despite the acquisition of the three aircraft, their registration numbers were not changed by the government, which indicated that the aircraft were under a wet-leased agreement.
A reliable source close to the state government told SaharaReporters that the three aircraft might not be put into use any moment soon.
The government has unveiled its own airline, Ibom Air, with the arrival of two Bombardier aircraft while others are expected to arrive soon.
It would be recalled that Governor Udom Emmanuel had in February unveiled the new airline to the public.
Emmanuel noted that the launch was a monumental achievement not only in Nigeria, but in Africa, stressing that the unveiling of the airline was a fulfillment of his blueprint for the state.
He had said: “We want to run the Ibom airline as one of the most efficient, economically viable and profitable that others will come to copy our business modules. The airline could run three flights, Lagos to Abuja out of Uyo every day.”
Senate President Bukola Saraki had unveiled the new aircraft and described the commissioning as “the audacity of hope.”
But, after a month the aircraft have not begun operations, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy in the state, Charles Udoh, had said the Ibom Air would commence commercial flight operations across Nigeria ahead of the swearing-in of Emmanuel for a second term in office on May 29, 2019.