United Nigeria Airlines maiden flight to the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu Friday, was accorded a rousing reception by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi who expressed joy that airline chose Enugu as its operational hub.
An excited Ugwuanyi, who was represented at the event by his Deputy Chief of Staff, Prof. Malachy Okwueze, said the management of United Nigeria Airlines made the right choice in choosing Enugu.
While disclosing that the state government was ready to partner with United Nigeria and make its investments in the state successful, the Governor lauded the management for believing in the state.
“Enugu state government is excited to welcome United Nigeria Airline. We congratulate the company, particularly, the chairman of the airline for this very giant feat. We are excited not only because United Nigeria is now flying into Enugu but particularly because Enugu is the operating hub. Enugu is the best state where any business can thrive. It is a home of peace and the safest State in Nigeria”, the governor said.
He further stated that “I can assure you that you have not made any mistake to make Enugu your hub. The state government will give you all the encouragement and we will continue to support you. We are glad to welcome you and we will continue to partner with you.”
Speaking earlier, Chairman of the new airline, Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, said the management decided on Enugu as its operational hub because of the need to expand the economy of the region.
According to him, Enugu is the heart of the southeast and offers great business opportunities that are yet to be tapped.
Dr. Okonkwo, who is a frontline aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the Anambra state governorship election holding November 2021, said the company will expand its operations to other states of the country and the West Coast region.
“Our short term is to consolidate. You can see we have a base in Enugu. And we have to consolidate, establish all our routes and then work about expanding. We want to expand beyond Nigeria, starting from the West Coast; just for a start. We have a big plan”, he said adding that the aviation sector offers room for more investments.
Noting that he was driven by the patriotic zeal to serve Nigerians and offer solutions to travel needs, Dr. Okonkwo stated that opportunities in the travel industry are huge.
“The market is huge; there is a need for a lot of aircraft. It might surprise you to know that we have a full load in all the routes we have operated this morning. Today is the first day of our service so that is good and it shows what will happen”, he said.
The United Nigeria airlines commenced regular flight operations from Lagos, Abuja, Asaba and Enugu. A source close to the airline said the Owerri and Port Harcourt routes will be activated in a few more days.
The Enugu airport welcome party included the cutting of the inaugural flight cake of the company as well as prayers to God for smooth operations offered by Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Obimma, also known as Ebube Muo Nso.
Present at the event included the traditional ruler of Ogidi in Idemili North local government area of Anambra state, His Royal majesty, Igwe Alex Onyido, Igwe Ezechuamagha na Ogidi, his Umunya counterparty, Igwe (Sir) Chris Onwekwuluje and the Igwe A.I Ofuebe, the Igwe Ogidiga of Ifite Ogwari.
The Archbishop of Onitsha, His Grace Most Rev. (Dr.) Valerian Okeke, was represented by Rev Fr. Prudentus Aroh, Chancellor of the Archdiocese, while Monsignor Luke Adike, Vicar General of Enugu Diocese, represented Bishop Callistus Onaga amongst others.
Chairman of United Nigeria Airlines, Dr. Obiora Okonkwo and his wife, Gina, flanked by Igwe Alex Onyido of Ogidi, Igwe (Sir) Chris Onyekwuluje of Umunya, Igwe A. I. Ofuebe of Ifite Ogwari all in Anambra state and Prof. Malachy Okwueze who represented Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi at the event.