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The Akwa Ibom State government will soon list the shares of its own Ibom Airlines, the governor, Udom Emmanuel, disclosed on Tuesday in Uyo.

The governor disclosed this when the Director-General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Alex Okoh, visited him in the state government house, Uyo.

Mr Emmanuel, who was represented by his deputy, Moses Ekpo, said the floating of an airline, Ibom Air, by the state government, was part of his administration’s efforts to industrialise the state and create investment opportunities.

He said the plan for the airline would be to float the shares of Ibom Air on the floor of the Nigerian Capital Market to afford Nigerians the opportunity to buy and own the shares of the company.

“Ibom Air was a strategic investment to help grow the economy of the state. We plan to expand the scope of the investment further, considering the tremendous success the airline has become within so short a time.

“We will soon float the share of the line on the Nigerian Capital Market for interested Nigerian investors to buy into the success of the company as co-owners with the State Government.

“However, we will give preference to indigenes of the state to exercise their right of first refusal in the acquisition of the shares of the airline,” he said.

The government said the state would leverage on the expertise of the BPE towards the industrialisation policy of the administration and called for greater synergy between the privatisation agency and the state.

The governor expressed concern over the lingering crisis over the ownership of the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria (ALSCON) located in Ikot Abasi.

In 2004, the Nigerian-American consortium, BFIG, emerged the preferred bidder for ALSCON after the National Council on Privatization (NCP) declared it the winner of the bid for the plant with a superior offer of $410 million.

The company’s co-bidder, UC RUSAL, was earlier disqualified by NCP for violating the bid guidelines.

But, BPE canceled the bid in controversial circumstances. BFIG protested the decision and took the matter before the court. The case dragged till the Supreme Court.

On July 6, 2012, the apex court in a unanimous ruling affirmed BFIG as the winner of the bid.

However, since 2012, BPE has refused to carry out the order. After two other court orders for the enforcement of the Supreme Court ruling failed, BFIG on April 4, 2019 commenced contempt proceedings against BPE.

The BPE DG is currently facing contempt proceedings initiated by BFIG which accused him of his serial disobedience of the Supreme Court order over the resolution of the ownership controversy on ALSCON.

On December 17, 2019, Justice Anwuri Chikere of the Federal High Court in Abuja ordered Mr Okoh, to be remanded in prison for a minimum of 30 days.

Controversy has continued to trail the alleged stay-of-execution order BPE claimed it procured against the order by the Federal High Court in Abuja.

Job creation

Earlier, Mr Okoh told the governor he was in the state with his management team as part of activities for the Bureau’s 2020 Management Staff Retreat in Uyo.

He informed the governor that the federal government was concerned with the lingering legal tussle surrounding ALSCON and had placed the issue on the front burner.

The DG noted that if ALSCON was functioning, it would have provided about 8,500 direct jobs and 35,000 indirect jobs to Nigerians, which Akwa-Ibom State would have been the greatest beneficiary.

Mr Okoh commended the state as a trail-blazer in Nigeria, the West-African Sub-region and indeed, the world for floating an airline which he noted, meets international standards.

He informed the governor that since the over 30 years of the Bureau’s existence, the agency has reformed over 230 previous Public Enterprises (PEs) in the Banking Sector, Oil & Gas, Telecoms, Pension and Debts’ managements among others.

On the power sector, which is the biggest reform exercise executed by the Bureau, he said if the privatisation was not carried out in 2013, the sector would have collapsed.

He said the federal government was addressing the hiccups being experienced in the sector.

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