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Monumental Waste As Taraba State-Owned Aircrafts Rot Away

...may be sold as scrap

Three aircrafts owned by the Taraba State government are left unused in Abuja and Kaduna Airports.

Taraba Truth and Facts investigation reveals that the Aircrafts acquired by the late former Governor Danbaba Danfulani Suntai was abandoned after his ill-fated plane crash which left him bedridden till the end of his tenure.

The aircrafts which include, a Bell helicopter and two small aircrafts; a Cessna 208, 5N-BMJ and two Embraer ERJ-145 jet cost the state government about $21 million, valued at ₦4.13bn which was the exchange rate at the time of purchase.

The late Governor  Suntai later crashed in the Cessna 208, leaving the state with 5N-BMJ and two Embraer ERJ-145 jets which are currently abandoned in Abuja and Kaduna. While the Bell helicopter is parked at the Government House, Jalingo.

Taraba Truth and Facts investigations revealed that the state government is owing the FAAN millions of Naira for parking the aircraft in its hanger in Abuja and Kaduna.
Highly confidential sources who are in the picture of the abandoned aircraft, said the state government might be forced to sell the aircraft as scraps because it has not been used for years.

"Currently the aircrafts are categorized as scraps or stored. That is the status for aircrafts which no longer fly after some years. The 'Parked' status corresponds to planes which have not flown for 20 days but of which we have no information that they have left the operator's fleet, " the source said. 

According to one of the sources, the state-owned aircrafts were yet to complete their processes to make them fit for flying before they were abandoned. A screening check was carried out at the initial buying stage. This was done to ascertain if the aircrafts had no issues and were ready to be used. 

"With the screen checks carried out, the aircraft was supposed to start functioning, but nothing has been said or done to that effect.

According to our investigations, an evaluation was meant to be carried out by the people involved in the checking process. During the tenure of Acting Governor Sani Abubakar Danladi, the evaluation plans were already put in place and it would cost a sum of €680,000 for the evaluation then if these were done the aircraft would have been put to use.

"This process was meant to be carried out at the end of every year of use of the aircraft but this wasn't done which has grounded the aircraft and make them unusable."

Successive Government Abandon 'State-Owned Airline Project'.

Air Taraba was established by the late governor, Danbaba Danfulani Suntai, as a state-funded carrier in 2012.

Between 2013 and 2014, Acting Governor Garba Umar UTC renegotiated the ongoing payments for a new ERJ 145  initiated by late Governor Suntai and got a rebate to the tune of 500,000 USD.

In April 2014, Skyworld Aviation announced the delivery of an ERJ 145 to Air Taraba, Nigeria, it was received by then Acting Governor Garba Umar who completed its payment. The aircraft was to serve the state alongside an existing ERJ 145.

According to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA),  records, Air Taraba was among seven new airlines to have applied for an Air Operator's Certificate (AOC) in 2012.

Sources said the late Suntai's government planned to start a state-owned airline while purchasing the aircraft.
A member of the State Executive Council during Governor Sunta's tenure wondered why successive administrations were not interested in using the aircrafts despite billions of Naira of the state fund was invested into it.

The former commissioner who does not want to be named said a state-owned airline would improve the economy of the state.

"Those were the reasons why the late Danbaba took the Airport project very seriously. The government felt the Airline would, aside from boosting the state's Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), it will increase economic activities to the state. Before now it was very difficult to access Taraba State by air. His government was also building air pads in some strategic areas to boost tourism and other economic activities of such area. The proposal was for the airline to be running Lagos, Abuja, Kaduna and Port Harcourt routes from Jalingo Airport. However, the dream is yet to come to reality ten years after.

Many residents who spoke to Taraba Truth and Facts Newspaper said they are unaware of the fates of the state-owned aircraft, urging the government to launch an investigation into the project, many want the incumbent government to revive the project as a means of creating jobs for the people of the state.

A member of Taraba State Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Alhaji Mohammed Saleh called on the state government to revive the vision for the state-owned airline.

He said operating a state-owned airline has a lot of potentials for the state and its economy.

"We want this government to look into the idea of reviving the idea of the state airline, we have the aircrafts and if Akwa Ibom can own an airline there's nothing wrong if Taraba starts it's own. We have our airport and people can fly from here to major cities in the country. "Also we can export our produce to another state, the only airline coming to the state places a lot of resistance on carrying of our agricultural produce, you can not carry honey on that flight, even our fresh milk is not allowed. If we have our airline, we will know how to work around them to boost the state economy," Saleh said.

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