By Ushang Ewa
Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River on Monday explained why the State owned airline, Cally Air is yet to commence operations.
Mr. Ayade told a select group of journalists shortly after one of the two aircrafts his administration purchased to float the airline touched down and was hosed down at the Margaret Ekpo International Airport in Calabar that it was due to the delay in obtaining an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) from the Nigerian government.
“It takes six months for the licence to come and if we have to wait for the licence, we will be losing money, so that is why we had to start early, using aero contractors with over 56years of flying without any accident. So on the basis of safety, we made a choice of aero contractors and against that background, we will continue with them until Cally Air has its full management team and a full AOC,” a statement from Government House Calabar quoted him as saying.
He continued: “So after the AOC, we can now commence a full direct independent airline. For those who imagine that aero has a hand in the procurement of this aircraft, it is absolutely false. No one, except Cross River citizens own this aircraft.”
The dream for the airline was first made public in September 2016 with Dana Air as the preferred partner, but, upon procurement of two Boeing 737-300’s, Aero became the operator with one of it’s pilot joining the flight from Magnetic MRO’s hangar in Czechia to Lagos earlier this year.
And, Ayade averred that the State had to go to Aero because of their safety records. The deal has remained shrouded in secrecy. However, he disclosed that: “Aero contractors knows that this aircraft is given to them for six months in the first instance strictly, because we do not have an AOC, which is the licence to run an airline business. We only have a licence for the aircraft.”
Despite announcing the intention to float an airline in September 2016, Mr. Ayade told newsmen on Monday that; “It was a dream we had in 2017, occasioned by the high influx of traffic into Calabar and the monopoly of some airlines dominating the Calabar route.”
The Governor said the high cost of flight tickets occasioned by the monopolistic tendencies of these airlines made it “imperative as a government, in spite of the fact that we are performing beyond our financial carrying capacity, to start up Cally Air. And that dream has become a reality today.”
He dismissed insinuations that this may set the State back financially as it is currently burdened with loans.
“Cally Air belongs to Cross River State. No loan, no facilities were obtained and it is one hundred percent a property of the citizens of Cross River State.
“I don’t own it, Aero contractors does not own it. No one has a percentage share. The recruitment was done by Aero contractors, but we have a responsibility to ensure that the sensitivity and ethnic differences in Cross River is reflected,” he said.
The Governor, however, failed to state who owns the airline.
He therefore, urged Cross Riverians to patronize the airline, noting that “Cally Air is actually intended to serve Cross Riverians. It is for you Cross Riverians. The decision by the airline to ply this route is to serve the people. Your fare which starts from N17,000 is intended to support Cross Riverians. So you must make Cally Air your choice airline. Cally Air will provide you the sufficiency of comfort as well as safety.”
The Governor who said the airline will make punctuality the soul of its business, also disclosed that, “when we say Cally Air operates on the dot, we mean it will be prompt, it will be apt, it will be time conscious to ensure that Cross Riverians can go to Abuja, do their business and return same day to save them the cost of hotel bills.”
According to him, “the whole concept of Cally Air is to ensure Cross Riverians reduce the cost of transportation and increase footfalls into Calabar so that our hotels can boom and we can then increase our tourism.”
He promised that, “as Cally Air begins to prosper, you are going to see more aircrafts being procured by Cross River State Ministry of Aviation and as I said, this is a property of Cross River State Government by extension the citizens of Cross River.
” Your money is there, my money is there, all of our taxes have come to the achievement of this. There is no bank loan and I am saying it on camera for emphasis, no bank here or abroad that will say Cross River borrowed 10kobo. There is no one that will say we borrowed one naira,” he said.
Below are photographs from the hose down at MGK by Daniel Williams…
Since You Are Here, Support Good Journalism
CrossRiverWatch was founded on the ideals of deploying tech tools to report in an ethical manner, news, views and analysis with a narrative that ensures transparency in governance, a good society and an accountable democracy.
Everyone appreciates good journalism but it costs a lot of money. Nonetheless, it cannot be sacrificed on the altar of news commercialisation.
Consider making a modest contribution to support CrossRiverWatch's journalism of credibility and integrity in order to ensure that all have continuous free access to our noble endeavor.