By Saviour Ekpe
The arrival of Ibom Air into the Nigeria Airspace has been greeted with mixed reaction according to one’s political divide. It is true that Ibom Air did not just emerge from the tin air but a metamorphosed project that began from the initiative and architectural know-how of Obong Arc. Victor Attah , the former governor of Akwa Ibom State who imagined, conceptualized and it finally came out with a modern airport from the ancient forest, thick and old where roots that were twisted of the lifeless sticks of charcoal from the Okobo and Uruan communities from the scratch up to about 80 per cent completion.
With the emergence of Chief Godswill Akpabio in 2007 as governor, he completed the airport and ensured that the first airplane landed on the land of Akwa-Abasi Ibom State. The effort made by governor Udom Emmanuel in the maintenance of the airport has been commended by political pundits. The purchase of three new airplanes by the State government under his watch has been received and described by his political associates as ‘Akwa Ibom first’ in the comity of states.
Eminent and patriotic Akwa Ibom sons and daughters have already aside thanking the governor for the feat pledged their support and contributions to the sector. One of such patriotic Akwa Ibom sons is the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Nsik Motors, the franchise holder to the Akwa Ibom Transport Company (AKTC), Mr. Nsikan Johnny while chatted with Century Newsfront said that in as much as Ibom Air is our property, the Akwa Ibom people will maintain and make it to work. He expressed the hope that efforts put in the AKTC that makes it a house hold name in the country would be redouble to also make Ibom Air an house hold name in the comity of nations as long as aviation sector is concerned, “I thank God for the governor, His Excellency, Udom Emmanuel this is the first time a state government has floated an airline for a commercial purpose. For instance, I did not start Akwa Ibom Transport Company; it started when I was very young but I came in and make AKTC what is it now. If the state governor could go to the extent of bringing airline it is an opportunity for us to key in and take over. People like us will soon bring in our own planes to add to the government effort to support the effort of the state government. So we are interested and ready to take over and within a short period of time Ibom Airline will be the talk of the town in Nigeria. Look at it today, AKTC is talked about in the whole country, so if we come in, Ibom Air will be known everywhere in the world, quote me and mark my words”.
Mr. Johnny who is also into other businesses including Nsik Engineering, oil and gas, Nsik Agro Alied, Nsik Express Delivery Company Limited, a courier delivery service which also handles consignments for government establishments, corporate bodies and private individuals maintained that his business conglomerate has so far employed thousands of people in different fields of endearvour with its multiplier effect has put food on the tables of the people. He expressed the hope that Ibom Air, which has come on stream, will further expand his business frontiers beyond the shores of Nigeria and Africa. Nsik Motors whose mission was to provide excellence in customized logistics services in an exemplary manner using a Corps of highly competent professional staff, modern, safe and comfortable vehicles and its vision being to be the foremost transportation Company in Nigeria and one of the best in the world have all been actualized within the period under review.
It is on record that the Akwa Ibom Transport Corporation (AKTC) [as it was then called before the name was changed to Akwa Ibom Transport Company (AKTC)] was brought to bear by the government of the late Obong Akpan Isemin in the early 90s to apart from solving the problem of the commuters travelling to and from other parts of the country, it was designed to also serve as income generating source for the state. The vision got lost on transit few years later as a result of being managed by government agency since in Nigeria; there is a general belief that ‘government is a bad manager’.
When Mr. Nsikan Johnny took over the management of the Akwa Ibom Transport Company (AKTC) in 2005 when the agreement was reached between the Akwa Ibom State government and Nsik Motors Company (a legal entity), some school of thought reasoned that Mr. Nsikan Johnny had gotten his own share of the state cake meaning that the company will get into total oblivion while others said that as a business man, he will resuscitate the corporation and make it a worthwhile venture thereby giving the state a mark in the comity of states as long as transport sector is concerned.
Today, the Akwa Ibom Transport Company (AKTC) under the management of Nsik Motors is a household name in transport business in Nigeria as it plies all the 36 states of the federation and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory and other major cities with standard terminal in each of the states. It is worthy of note that today, AKTC is fully digitalized as commuter only need to supply their GSM phone number at the registration bay and information about the person would appear for capturing. Aside this, the management of the state owned transport company has also series of monitoring platforms to ensure that the vehicles do not carry above the required passengers at a time and equally ensures that they do not stop at an unapproved bus station in any part of the country to avoid unnecessary sanction.
To say that AKTC has put food on the tables of thousands of Nigerians may be viewed as understatement as some of its workers are now transport owners themselves through a Drive-and-own empowerment scheme in which the driver becomes the owner of the vehicle after two years; Provision of free apprenticeship training.
The story of Nsik Motor cannot be complete without looking back to the beginning of a young, dynamic, very aticulate, forthright, sincere and committed entrepreneur, Mr. Nsikan Johnny, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Nsik Motors who started as a motorbike operator (okada), was determined to explore other aspects of the transport industry that will enhance the movement of goods and persons in large scale, create employment and take transport business to an enviable height. Moved by this vision, Mr. Nsikan Johnny acquired his first automobile, a fairly used Volkswagen bus, popularly known as “Danfo” and operated within Port Harcourt City where he served as a conductor for six months and subsequently took over as its driver. Not long after this, the need to ply inter-state route became expedient, which necessitated the further acquisition of a Mitsubishi L300 to complement the ‘Danfo’ bus. The L300 plied Port Harcourt-Uyo route under Port Harcourt City Transport Company Limited, which Mr. Johnny drove himself while the “Danfo” still plied within Port Harcourt City, driven by someone else. An additional Toyota Hiace bus was procured to complement the Volkswagen and the L300 buses and the rest is history.
For Ibom Air to see the light of the day after all the fantasies, Akwa Ibom government needs to look away from ‘foreign’ investors who will generate money from Akwa Ibom property and escape through a ‘capital flight’ system while there are many unidentified serious entrepreneurs in Akwa Ibom that are seeking for a boost to showcase talents and proficiency.