…Akwa Ibom acquires three aircraft for Ibom Airline***
Five crew members, made up of two pilots and three personnel
of the Nigerian Air Force, have been confirmed dead in the military helicopter
crash which occurred in Damasak, Borno State, on Wednesday.
The victims were identified as Flight Lieutenant Perowei
Jacob, the pilot in command; Flight Lieutenant Kaltho Kilyofas, the co-pilot;
Sergeant Auwal Ibrahim, a flight technician; Lance Corporal Adamu Nura, a
gunner; and Aircraft Man Meshack Ishmael, also a gunner.
The five crew members were on board the NAF Mi-35M
helicopter, providing air support to troops of 145 Battalion, Damasak in Borno
State, when the crash occurred around 7.30pm on Wednesday.
An attack helicopter had first been reportedly lost in
combat at Damasak in Northern Borno State.
Northern Borno is a vulnerable and Boko Haram-attack area
where the Islamic State of West African Province fighters had attempted to
overrun military bases recently, with attacks on Metele on November 18, 2018,
Buni Gari in early December 2018, and Baga in the latest invasion on December
26 and 27, 2018.
The air force acquired and inducted two Mi-35M attack
helicopters from Russia in February 2017, which it deployed in the North-East
to complement the fight against the Boko Haram insurgency.
On Thursday, our correspondent learnt that the Chief of the
Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, went to Maiduguri over the aircraft
crash and met with the Air Task Force of Operation Lafiya Dole.
The air chief also received the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.
Gen. Tukur Buratai, in Maiduguri, over the air crash.
The NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Air
Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, said on Thursday that the remains of the deceased
personnel had been recovered and deposited in a morgue in Maiduguri.
He said, “These gallant fallen heroes made the supreme
sacrifice in the service of our fatherland, for which the NAF, and indeed the
entire nation, owe them an unending debt of gratitude. The Chief of the Air
Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, commiserates with the families.”
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday condoled
with the Nigerian Air Force and the families of the five persons who died in
the military helicopter.
“The President mourns Flight Lieutenant Perowei Jacob (Pilot
in Command); Flight Lieutenant Kaltho Paul Kilyofas (Co-Pilot); Sergeant Auwal
Ibrahim (Flight Technician); Lance Corporal Adamu Nura (Gunner); and
Aircraftman Meshack Ishmael (Gunner), who died in the mishap,” a statement by
the Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, read.
In the meantime, Akwa Ibom State Government said on Thursday
that it had acquired three aircraft to its fleets of Ibom Airline Company.
The State Commissioner for Special Duties and Aviation
Development, Mr Akan Okon, who disclosed this at the New Year chat with newsmen
in Uyo, said the airline would be run as a limited liability company.
According to him, the airline has the capacity to generate
400 direct and indirect jobs for the teaming unemployed youth in the state.
“Ibom Air has come to stay. I am happy to tell you that we
have completed recruitment with a good number of Akwa Ibom children. The chief
pilot is from Akwa Ibom.
“Three aircraft are secure and are ready for commencement of
operation. It is completely owned and operated by the Akwa Ibom State
Government and it will provide 400 direct and indirect jobs,” Okon added.
Okon pointed out that though the airline was exclusively
owned by the Akwa Ibom State Government, its management and operations would
completely align professionally with world best practices.
He said members of staff of the new airline, who were
recruited strictly on merit, were currently undergoing training in their
various areas of specialities and added that they were getting set to start
operations as soon as all formalities were concluded.
Okon lauded the State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, for the
successes so far recorded and the Director of Air Worthiness at the Nigerian
Aviation Authority, Ita Awak.
He specifically thanked Awak, who is a member of the All
Progressives Congress, for his role in ensuring ease of operations and the
actualisation of the purpose for which Ibom Airport was established.
“Some Akwa Ibom sons in positions of authority have been
supportive; prominent among them is the Director of Air Worthiness, Ita Awak,
who has worked so hard to ensure that the MRO becomes a reality,” Okon said.
The commissioner explained that the heavy traffic in Akwa
Ibom airport had made it imperative for the state government to join the few
airlines operating therein, saying that Ibom Airline would at the moment
operate within Uyo-Lagos-Abuja routes.
He stated that the current administration was working to
improve the standard of the airport with the ongoing second runway, new
taxiway, a power sub-station, new commercial building and other unique
He explained that such an improvement made it possible for the landing of over 20 aircraft in the President’s entourage during the flag-off of the APC presidential campaign for the South-South region in Akwa Ibom.