Jake Otu Enyia, Commissioner for Aviation, Cross River State
As a way of diversifying, Cross River State government launched into aviation business despite her lean resources. Commissioner for aviation, Jake Otu Enyia has insisted that they will yet not privatise the airline but poised for more aircrafts to lead that sector. Excerpts:
By Akpan David, Calabar
Will the Cross River State government privatise Cally-Airline?
We have not yet given a thought to privatizing Cally Airline for purpose of sustainability. We have just started the business. We need to put many things in their places before we think about privatization. For now, we think that our own airline should rather operate fully to enable us know its capability, and extent we can manage it. Thereafter, we might think whether in the long run we can leave it in the hands of management entirely. But remember that the state government will always have overriding interests even though it was established as a private limited liability company. CallyAir is a business venture. And so, we cannot foreclose that such possibility does not exist. There is nothing wrong having investors that will come to bolster the business. In future, we will think about it, but not now.
What extent have you gone yet to formalize ownership of the airline?
We have gone far towards obtaining our own Air Operative Certificate (AOC). Without it, we cannot yet operate solely as our own, which reason we have to secure services of Aero Contractors. As you know, before you have the AOC, you must have a management team on ground, a board to supervise them and, at least three functional aircrafts. This is by the provision of the regulations of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority section 18. We have since started the processes by advertising in major newspapers to recruit top professionals from where we will constitute the management team and the board. We are also pursuing vigorously the acquisition of the third aircrafts to our fleet.
Cross River receives about the lowest revenue in terms of federal allocation. You are talking about buying the third aircraft for your fleet. Where are you getting funds for this project?
We are using the intellectual ingenuity of the state governor, Prof Ben Ayade. There is the possibility of getting even the tenth aircraft through the same process. We are poised, and will certainly do it. Nobody gave us any chance that we can establish and run an airline or build an international airport alongside about 40 industries spread all over the state – all because we receive the lowest federal allocation and our Internally Generated Revenue is next to nothing. But the concept of Intellectual Money by the governor has lifted the state above many.
How ready is the Obudu International Cargo and Passengers airport? Why did you not rather expand either the older Margaret Ekpo International airport or the Bebi air strip in Obanliku LGA?
First, you know that the Margaret Ekpo airport in Calabar is a federal asset, and Cross River has no stake in it except to provide security. We don’t interfere in its management or collect revenue from that airport. The nature of Calabar airport is that mega-airlines cannot land there because its runway is limited. To expand the runway would claim the entire state resources in ten years. There is a big and deep gully very close to it which only the federal government can afford to handle such project. So we resolve that instead of sinking such staggering sum of money to the expansion of the Calabar airport it was better we launch out and establish our own state airport, where we can collect revenues to recoup. For the Bebi air strip, it is too close to Benue State. Besides, the topography and the magnetic force from the surrounding high mountains in the air strip won’t allow for mega airline operations. It then became imperative for us to establish our own. And we preferred to establish it in Obudu LGA for variety of reasons, which majorly are to pull traffic to boost the state tourism drive. The airport will add value to the Obudu Mountain Resort, the international reference hospital as well as the international university. The Obudu airport will serve nearby states such as Benue, Ebonyi, Taraba which do not have airports. It is going to be our strongest revenue base.
When do you think the construction of the airport will be completed for use?
We are certain that before end of 2022, we are going to fly from our Obudu International Airprt. Were it not for the rains, it would have been ready by now.
How much has the state expended so far in the construction?
The project was awarded for N27 million. It is about the least of such major contract. The entirety of the contract was not given to one person otherwise we would not have finished it in three years. We awarded it to different contractors and firms. They handled different areas.