The Bayelsa government at the weekend opened partnership discussions with its Akwa Ibom counterpart on the use of Ibom Air to start commercial flight operations at the Bayelsa International Airport.
Speaking as the leader of a high-powered delegation from Bayelsa at a meeting in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom capital, the Deputy Governor, Sen. Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, said that the choice of Ibom Air was informed by proximity and the good bilateral relations between the two sister states.
Ewhrudjakpo, in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media, Mr Doubara Atasi, on Sunday explained that Akwa Ibom 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 IbomAir to promote socioeconomic activities in the state.
Ewhrudjakpo, who likened efforts for acquiring the operational licence to Nelson Mandela’s “Long walk to Freedom”, however, added that government has plans to do business with other airlines in the near future.
His words, “Basically, we are here to discuss how we can have mutually beneficial partnership with your airline, Ibom Air. Our target is on any of your aircraft that has the capacity of about 50-seaters because we don’t want to start too big.
“We believe that if we don’t start anything now, we will have the issue 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 such as Orleans and Air Peace and then even the New United Airlines, we agreed to start with Akwa Ibom, our neighbor, 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 major cities that our people visit very often for now either for business or for other purposes.”
Members of the state delegation, who accompanied the deputy governor were the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Biriyai Dambo, Commissioner for Finance, Mr Maxwell Ebibai, and their transport counterpart, Hon. Grace Ekiotenne.
Others included the Deputy Chief of Staff, Deputy Governor’s Office, Mr Alex Dumbo and the Manager of the Bayelsa International Airport, Mrs Elizabeth Akpama.