Abuja, Nigeria (PANA) – The Nigerian Federal Government on Thursday acquired the country’s largest indigenous airline, Arik Air, announcing the appointment of a new management.
The takeover is a bid to save the country’s troubled aviation industry from total collapse, according to official sources.
Air Air flies all over the country and operates flights to major West African countries, London, New York and East Africa.
The Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), through its spokesperson, Mr Jude Nwauzor, said government’s decision to intervene clearly underscores a commitment to instill sanity in the country’ aviation sector to prevent a major catastrophe.
Under the new arrangement, Roy Ilegbodu, a veteran aviation expert, has been named head of the management of the airline under the receivership of Oluseye Opasanya, a senior advocate of Nigeria.
Besides, AMCON said that the government would give a lifeline to support the financially-distressed Arik Airlines.
According to AMCON, “The development will afford Arik Airlines, which is the largest local carrier in the country, to go back to regular and undisrupted operations, avoid job losses, protect investors and stakeholder funds as well as ensure safety and stability in the already challenged aviation sector.
Arik, which controls about 55 per cent of the country’s passenger traffic, has for some time faced threats of liquidation as a result of heavy financial debt burden, weak corporate governance, operational difficulties, bad management and inability to pay staff regularly.
Apart from backlog of accumulated staff salaries, AMCON said the airline has the most demotivated workforce in the sector, while being in constant default in its lease payments and insurance, resulting in some aircraft getting confiscated by lessors.
Besides, the airline has been operating extremely erratic schedules not good for a strategic carrier, with its flights routinely either delayed or cancelled without explanations to customers.
Other corporate issues, which have eroded Arik brand reputation include negligence of operational regulations, luggage pilfering or outright disappearances, poor corporate governance, and disregard for safety procedures.
Nigeria’s Minister of State for Aviation, Mr Hadi Sirika, said the government’s decision to take over the management of Arik Airlines would stabilise its operations, enhance its long term economic value, revitalise its ailing operations, and sustain safety standards, in view of its pivotal role in the Nigerian aviation sector.
The Minister pledged the support of the Federal Ministry of Aviation for the new management to make Arik remain a strategic carrier, saying the intervention was in the best interest of the general public, workers, creditors and other aviation interest groups.
“All necessary steps have been taken to ensure that there would be no undue disruption on Arik’s regular business operations or activities of other stakeholders, on account of the recent changes in the leadership and management of Arik Airline,” the minister assured.
Meanwhile, the new management of the airline has assured both the staff and other interest groups that it would work to add value to its operations, improve customer experience, and sustain the safety, reliable and secure operational history it was known.
Prior to the takeover, operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Wednesday stormed the head office of the airline, to meet with its Chairman, Joseph Arumemi-Ikhide.
-0- PANA MON/VAO 9Feb2017