The chief executive of African Aviation Services Ltd, Mr. Nick Fadugba has said that if the maintenance, repair organisation (MRO) facility at the Akwa Ibom International Airport, Uyo, comes on stream it will serve Nigerian airlines that ferry their aircraft for maintenance overseas a lot of money.
Speaking in Lagos at the 22nd annual seminar of the League of Airport and Aviation Correspondents (LAAC), Fadugba who delivered a paper entitled ‘MRO Financing’ said he was filled with joy when the project was launched but regretted that it had become a white elephant.
“I was filled with optimism when Akwa Ibom started the hangar, but it has been lying there for many years. And that is about $100 million invested in an empty hangar. Why haven’t Nigerian airlines come together? There is a hangar right there, why don’t they come together and get that hangar up and running? I am very sure Akwa Ibom State government will welcome Nigerian airlines saying, ‘right, let’s make this a Boeing 737 facility or whatever.’ It is an opportunity,” he said.
He said described the facility as a “gold mine” adding that it is a source of job creation and with a good business plan and collaboration with both local and international investors, the facility could be revitalised.
“The government needs to get someone or company to put a business plan together because they have a facility. So, they need the right business plan, the right management and investment to make it work. I believe that that facility can be profitable and viable. At the moment it is a white elephant. There is no need for that when we are lacking MRO facility in Nigeria; it is a golden opportunity. When I look at Akwa Ibom, it is a tremendous source of jobs for the state and the youths. I really urge the state government to pursue that project and make it viable” said Fadugba.
He also stated that geographical location of the facility or airport is not a problem saying “it is a couple of hour’s flight.”
“Nigerian airlines are ferrying their aircraft to Europe for maintenance. Why can’t they ferry it to Akwa Ibom, what is the difference. If you have a facility there that can produce the job, I know the cost of labour will be much cheaper than in Europe. I believe that project is far-sighted, but the strategy did not succeed because there was no continuation, there was no follow up. But now that it is lying idle and fallow, it can be revitalized, it can be made to work with the right business strategy and the right global contact in the MRO world.
The facility can also serve the West Africa market. You can imagine people ferrying their aircraft from West Africa to Akwa Ibom; it can be done. If anyone creates an MRO in Lagos or Abuja, the one in Akwa Ibom is gone. So, now is the time to move in quickly. You might say now you are responsible for a certain type of aircraft; we are going to be the champion for Boeing 737. Just look for the most popular aircraft type in Nigeria and focus on that before anyone else can start in Lagos or elsewhere,” he added.