Nigerian Government takes over West Africa’s Largest carrier Arik Air
by Friday Nwosu
Nigeria and West Africa’s largest carrier, Arik Air has been taken over by the country’s government in a bid to prevent the airline from going the way of other airlines that have gone out of operation.
The move to take over the operation of the airline by the government according to the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) was in line with its desire to sanitize the country’s aviation sector to prevent a major catastrophe in the country.
The Nigerian carrier has been faced with financial challenges and has had a long standing face off with agencies in the industry bordering on debts owed some of the parastatals.
According to naija.com: “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,” AMCON spokesperson Jude Nwauzor said.
Under the new arrangement, the airline would now be managed by a veteran aviation expert Roy Ilegbodu under the receivership of a senior advocate of Nigeria Oluseye Opasanya.
Arik has been facing financial challenges for some time even though the management often denied the fact.
Recall that in late December 2016, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority announced it had fined Arik Air N6m over its passengers’ complaints of delay and inability of the airline to ferry their luggage from London to Lagos from the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of December, 2016.
The NCAA also directed the airline to pay affected passenger, the sum of $150 each as compensation for inconveniences suffered as a result of the delayed arrival of their luggage, within 30 days of the date of the letter.
Earlier, anti-graft operatives of the country, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), had invited the Chairman of the airline, Sir Joseph Arumemi-Ikhide to its Ikoyi office for questioning.
Arik Air through its spokesman, Adebanji had comfirmed the invitation of the chairman in a statement saying:“Operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Wednesday, 8 February 2017 visited Arik Air’s head office.”
The very brief statement further read,” They held a brief meeting with Chairman of Arik Air, Sir Joseph Arumemi-Ikhide after which the Chairman visited their Ikoyi, Lagos office for further discussions and to respond to their enquiries. Having satisfactorily answered the query, the Chairman later left the EFCC office.”
As it stands, the airline is in dire straits especially with the alleged N139billion indebtedness to the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON)and the series of trouble in the last couple of months ranging from union issues to a sequence of flight delays and cancellations especially on their international flights leading to passengers agitations and subsequent fine by the regulators.
The airline also had an issue which led unions to shut it down over payment of seven months salaries sometime in 2016.
The issue of flight delays and cancellations are what led to aggrieved passengers of the airline seeking redress and refund of their air ticket fares at the airline’s headquarters yesterday before they were barricaded by security agents who turned out to be EFCC operatives.
Aggrieved passengers who could not get refund for their cancelled flights had stormed the airline yesterday but could not gain entrance into the building with some of them alleging claims from N70, 000 to as much as N800, 000 from July last year through to December.