The continued absence of the essential aircraft Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) center otherwise known as hangar for Nigeria’s aviation sector in particular has continued to be a source of worry for stakeholders across the sector.
Each time the issue of an MRO had been raised, the general acceptance had been that for Nigerian airlines to measure up with their foreign counterparts, the government had a major role to play just like other countries like the United States of America (USA) and United Kingdom had done in recent time.
It was therefore cheering when this same issue was again brought to the fore at the recent conference organized by the Nigeria-based firm, SpringFountain Infrastructure Limited in conjunction with the America-based aircraft manufacturing giant, the Boeing, where it was declared of the plan by the African Aircraft Leasing Company (AALC) to invest over $20 billion in the country to set up an aircraft maintenance repair and overhaul centre, spares logistics and facilitate the lease of aircraft for the Nigerian airlines.
As cheering as the idea was to all the participants at the event, the reality dawned on all that the fresh move to invest this whopping sum on a new MRO in the country would have better been invested in an already established MRO base in Ibom International Airport, Uyo in Akwa Ibom State.
The Ibom Airport MRO facilities which were well packaged during the regime of former governor Godswill Akpabio and continued by the present government of Governor Udom Emmanuel should ordinarily be described as the best thing to happen to the country’s aviation sector and West Africa in general in view of the inherent obvious benefits.
It is no longer news that the domestic airlines in Nigeria bleed while going for maintenance especially the C-Check type in view of the high exchange rate between the Naira and foreign currencies.
Definitely, the presence of a hangar in Nigeria would go a long way in not only saving the cost of maintenance of aircraft outside the country, but end capital flight, create employment for the various Nigerian professionals and jack up the Gross Domestic Products (GDP) of the country.
On this premise, many key players have continued to wonder why the federal government has been foot dragging in taking over or partnering Akwa Ibom State in making the establishment of the MRO at Ibom Airport a reality even when the state had openly invited the government to either take it over as a national hangar or partner it to make its funding easier.
The decision of the Akwa Ibom State government to embark on the construction of such an important facility deserves serious encouragement in view of the benefit the entire country and even neighboring countries stand to gain from the step.
With the absence of an MRO facility in the West African region, one would have expected the federal government to jump at the opportunity the Ibom Airport MRO readily makes available, its decision to abandon the project for the state has been described as another political summersault.
The so called promises of transforming the sector will always be doubtful if the issue of MRO which is a major driver of a successful aviation sector is not being given priority by this government.
The government needs to respect an earlier agreement made on its behalf by a former Minister of Aviation, Alhaji Isa Yuguda to partner the state in the completion of the money spinning project.
Agreed that the Federal Government has its limitations and challenges, but it will be suicidal to allow the Ibom Airport MRO facilities go down.
The Ethiopian government is a good example of governments that know the importance of an MRO and has invested heavily in it. The rest today is history as witnessed in the huge capital being generated to the coffers of the country where many African airlines including Nigerian airlines rush to for maintenance of their aircraft.
The federal government should take over the Ibom Airport MRO project for the benefit of its aviation sector and West Africa.